Music at the Museum
A resolution to create an International Museum Day was signed in Moscow in 1977. It was the initiative of the ICOM (International Council of Museums); the special occasion has since been celebrated around the world, including Poland.
The celebrations offer a perfect opportunity to take a look at various musical collections which can be found in Polish museums.
Musical instruments, photos of musicians, elaborate costumes of singers and folk researchers with tape recorders are all images that we mostly associate with ethnographic museums, open-air museums and specialist musical institutions. If we want to have as broad a picture of traditional folk instruments as possible, we should start with the Muzeum Ludowych Instrumentów Muzycznych (Museum of Folk Musical Instruments) in Szydłowiec filled with exhibits from all parts of rural Poland. The facility also offers other exhibitions dedicated to music and folklore (e.g. Sobiescy – Saved in Sound).
There is a wide range of folk instruments that we can find in Poznań, too – at the Muzeum Instrumentów Muzycznych (Museum of Musical Instruments), a branch of the National Museum. The exhibited traditional instruments are not only Polish in origin; they also come from other European countries and even from other continents. The two institutions mentioned so far (in Szydłowiec and Poznań) both house rich collections of musical artefacts and they are a safe choice to grasp a full picture of this subject matter. However, your journey need not stop there. In this article I would like to draw your attention to other museum collections that are definitely worth exploring, too.
If you are excited about seeing musical instruments from other continents, why not visit the Muzeum Azji i Pacyfiku (Asia and Pacific Museum)? At the end of 2016, the museum opened a new permanent exhibition, Strefa Dźwięków (Sound Zone), dedicated to musical instruments found in Asian cultures. There you will see a Mongolian morin hhuur, the instrumentation of the Javanese gamelan or Japanese shakuhachi flutes, which were, interestingly, for many years used by the komusō monks as meditation tools (suizen) before finding additional application in music. The instruments displayed in the museum are not only there to watch and admire – they can be listened to on interactive panels as well.
Local museums: Lublin
Numerous museums around the country – from the most prominent ones, like the National Museum, to regional exhibition chambers – frequently house musical instruments in their collections. The Muzeum Lubelskie in Lublin is a fine example of a museum where the visitors can go to see some famous historic exhibits, such as the Chapel of the Holy Trinity or Unia Lubelska (Union of Lublin) painted by Jan Matejko, and traditional local instruments in the same place.
Local museums: Wielkopolska (Greater Poland)
The Muzeum Ziemi Zbąszyńskiej i Regionu Kozła (Museum of Zbąszyń Land and the Kozioł Land) in Zbąszyń houses a rich collection of traditional local instruments, especially such rarities as white kozioł (‘goat’) and black kozioł, including a sixteenth-century wedding kozioł!, in addition to a variety of fiddles. The place is also worth visiting for its other fascinating artefacts of the regional history and tradition. While you are in Zbąszyń, you cannot miss a monument of a kozioł player, which stands just across the town square.
There is another monument dedicated to folk music in Wielkopolska; it stands in front of the village church in Stara Krobia.
Zbąszyń is close to the town of Grodzisk Wielkopolski, home to the Towarzystwo Miłośników Ziemi Grodziskiej (Lovers of Grodzisk Land Society). The society’s exhibition collection features memorabilia connected with Tomasz Gozdek, such as his bagpipes and numerous photographs:
Tomasz Gozdek was an outstanding musician; his performances were recorded by Jadwiga Sobieska and Marian Sobieski. Gozdek’s recordings are kept in the Phonographic Collection of the Institute of Art, Polish Academy of Sciences.
Local museums: Borderland
There is a small village of Wola Osowińska located on the border of three historic provinces: Mazowsze (Mazovia), Podlasie and Lubelszczyzna (Lublin Land), where we can find another interesting museum, the Muzeum Regionalne im. Wacława Tuwalskiego (Wacław Tuwalski Regional Museum). Housing a rich collection dedicated to local musicians, its main theme, as the name suggests, is the figure of Wacław Tuwalski, the ‘local Oskar Kolberg’ – a researcher of local music and a ‘collector’ of folk songs. His field work dates back to the 1930s, but the main attraction of the museum is his tape recorders used to document traditional folk music in Wola Osowińska, Osowno and other neighbouring villages later on in his life.
Local museums: Rzeszowszczyzna (Rzeszów Land)
Franciszek Kotula was well-known in Rzeszowszczyzna as a local activist and a researcher of the regional folklore. His colourful tales of local musicians can be found in the novel Muzykanty (Folk Musicians). Today, the Ethnographic Museum located in Rzeszów Town Square is named after him.
The museum houses numerous characteristic instruments from the region of Rzeszowszczyzna. Local types of fiddles, dulcimers, clarinets or drums are complemented by an array of fascinating wind instruments from the ‘Beat the drum, sound the trumpet…’ exhibition. The museum photographs are available here.