The State Ethnographic Museum in Warsaw

The State Ethnographic Museum in Warsaw

Tradition today

The State Ethnographic Museum in Warsaw
This museum is located in a historic nineteenth-century building in the center of the Poland’s capital city. It is the largest and most modern ethnographic museum in Poland.

Since 1971 The State Ethnographic Museum in Warsaw is located in a historic building of the former Land Credit Society (Architects: Henryk Marconi - elevation design, Józef Górecki - interior layout). Construction took place in two stages between 1853 and 1858 in the place of the so-called Red mansion.

The State Ethnographic Museum in Warsaw is located on 1 Kredytowa Street, Warsaw. 1) Palace of Culture and Science 2) Grand Theatre and Polish National Opera 3) The National Museum
The State Ethnographic Museum in Warsaw
The two-storey building was in the shape of the letter E and during World War II the building was seriously damaged.

In 1948-49 the east wing from Mazowiecka street was reconstructed, and in the years 1962-1971 the remainder of the building was reconstructed according to Czeslaw Wagner’s design. The elevation was restored with minor changes. Only the center wing was given a new modernist facade. In this state, the building was transferred in 1960 to The State Ethnographic Museum in Warsaw.

The ruins of the Land Credit Society edifice (Kredytowa Street), designated as the new seat of The State Ethnographic Museum, 1960.

The formal move to the new premises at 1 Kredytowa Street began in 1971. Moving all the collections and divisions, arranging storage and preparing permanent exhibitions was a large-scale undertaking and a huge logistic challenge.

The Floating Museum project - mobile museum on the Złota Kaczka (Golden Duck) barge, 1956. The barge operated from 1955 till 1967, reaching 180 locations on the Vistula, Noteć, Odra Rivers, as well as along the Masurian Lakes.

Together with the special exhibition space, it had broadcasting equipment used to organise concerts and information programs which accompanied the floating exhibition.

The return from fieldwork in Sokółka and Hajnówka. In the image - museum staff. From the left: the driver, K. Chojnacki, R. Włodarz, U. Gmachowska, T. Ambrożewicz, P. Szacki, 1976.

Fieldwork and collecting exhibits during the "gift for the museum" campaign, 1977. On the right - Piotr B. Szacki, an ethnographer and museum worker.

Collecting exhibits during the "gift for the museum" campaign, 1977.

The Museum today

In the museum’s main hall, opposite the main entrance, we have a modernly fitted reception, where guests and visitors are welcomed by Hatsune Miku – a cult manga character. She was made by Akamine Hidetoshi, and is dressed in an outfit inspired by Polish folk costumes, designed by famous fashion designer – Teresa Seda. This project was coordinated by Elżbieta Czyżewska.

In 2013 The State Ethnographic Museum in Warsaw created the first Museum for Children in Poland and named it after children’s author and educator - Janusz Korczak.

In this comfortable and uniquely designed space, children get to know the concept of a museum, how to move in its space, and about art from all over the world and across diverse cultures.

The Museum for Children is housed in five rooms. They host workshops, museum lessons, book promotions and meetings with travelers.

The patio hosts temporary exhibitions, concerts, group dancing performances, multimedia installations, fashion shows and banquets.

In the cinema and conference hall we show films and multimedia screenings, we host conferences, academic sessions, trainings and lectures, dance, theater and music performances.

The library of The State Ethnographic Museum in Warsaw hosts a vast collection (30,000 volumes) of specialist publications from Poland and abroad.

The publications cover the topics of ethnology, ethnography, cultural anthropology, museology etc., as well as albums, encyclopedias and dictionaries.

Permanent Exhibitions
The whole world in one place!

The permanent exhibition “Celebration Time in Polish and European Folklore” was created in 2013 to celebrate the Museum’s 125th anniversary.

In the modern, two-storey exhibition hall, that incorporates big showroom aesthetics, you can admire a collection of the most beautiful folk costumes from Poland and Europe, ritualistic accessories, religious art, fabrics, decorative ceramics and woodcarving.

The folklore collection consists of a group of objects which are particularly fragile and difficult to preserve. The most significant of these is the group of Easter eggs.

Music and Dance - annex to the permanent exhibition "Celebration Time in Polish and European folklore".

The exhibition is a journey to the roots of Frederic Chopin's music, with the help of rustic melodies and folk instruments. Here, the world of the great composer's music is intertwined with authentic sounds of a traditional Poland; at the same time, it introduces the listener to sounds, scales, and rhythms from around the world – Greece, the Balkans, Iran, India, and Africa.

Before World War II, celebrations took place in thousands of Jewish families in countless cities, towns and villages. That’s the reason why the exhibition "Celebration Time” is accompanied with a Judaic Annex. When entering the annex, one must pass an original, renovated sukkah from the town of Szydłowiec (the Mazovia region).

In the Judaic annex we present the town of Gąbin (Gombin in the Ashkenazi spelling), in the Mazovia region, a birthplace of a renown 17th century rabbi Abraham Gombiner and an Yiddish poet Rajzel Zychlinsky. A visitor can watch an amateur black-and-white film shot by Sam Rafel in 1939, showing the town and its citizens. We also present a model of a wooden synagogue burnt in 1939, made by Wojciech Wasilewski.

The exhibition "Order of Things - storeroom by Piotr B. Szacki" presents almost the entire collection (around 3000 items) primary economy and handicraft. You can see several versions of one tool or item, and at the same time – notice the details and the uniqueness of any particular object. Some pieces are “hidden” at first glance, stored on tall shelves, but one has to remember that this is a storeroom – not everything here is clearly exposed.

Temporary Exhibitions

The exhibition “Beyond Faces-Masks, Puppets and Shadow Art from the NAMOC Collection” was presented between October 2014 and March 2015.There were a wide variety of masks and puppets used in China which originated from ancient religious ceremonies thousands of years ago. These masks and puppets were created with extraordinary skill by talented artists to tell stories, express emotions, and teach people about good and evil.

The exhibition "Football Stories" was presented between June and October 2016. The patron of the event was Bank Zachodni WBK. Our permanent exhibition “Celebration Time” transformed into a sporting shrine and filled itself with unique items from Poland’s largest collection, one belonging to the legendary sports journalist – Stefan Szczepłek.

Translation: During the World Cup in South Africa, Michał Listkiewicz was a FIFA delegate for a few games, including the one between Argentina and Mexico in Cape Town. He visited the locker rooms of both teams to introduce himself and say hello. In the Argentinian locker room, Listkiewicz reminded Diego Maradona - who was the head coach of the team then - of the 1990 World Cup final between Argentina and West Germany (0:1), in which they both participated - Maradona as Argentina’s captain, and Listkiewicz - as a linesman. The famous “El Diego” then did something remarkable - he shouted at the team administrator: Una camiseta por senor presidente. Rapido! [“A jersey for mister delegate. Quickly!”] When an Argentina jersey was brought to him, the moved Maradona signed it over the crest.It was an unusual situation, since Maradona was always reluctant to sign autographs. After signing the jersey, he looked around the locker room, looking for the shortest player on the team, who was tying his shoes at that moment. “Chico, come here, you sign it as well,” he commanded. The short guy came and autographed the jersey. It was Leo Messi.Those two autographs on one jersey make it the only such item in the world.

The exhibition Things that Last presented the photographs of the Podhale region by Tomasz Tomaszewski- the recipient of several Polish and international photography awards, a contributor to National Geographic. It was presented between January 15th and February 14th, 2016.

The temporary exhibition in the Museum for Children "O! collection" - aims to direct our attention to children's collections and their contemporary aspects. Any child can take part in this exhibition and show off their collections.

The exhibition "Magic and Art of Bali" was comprised of three parts. The first, and most extensive section, was devoted to Balinese painting, the second focused on textiles, and the last was dedicated to sculpture. The exhibition lasted from October 2016 to March 2017.

“Biblia Pauperum.The Art of the Poor and Excluded. Depictions of God in Folk Art” exhibition makes use of the greatest exhibits from the collection of The State Ethnographic Museum in Warsaw.

The narrative presents the peasants’ take on the Bible and their understanding of the world and bases on Biblical and apocryphal elements of the story of the Salvation, present in folk art.

"Art's grey area – The Time of Art Brut" exhibition. Art brut is the grey area of art. Despite existing on the fringes of art, art brut has a definite influence on artistic movements, schools and trends while also proving to be a stimulus for transcending aesthetic barriers. Works by 31 art brut artists were shown during the exhibition. Among these artists were some of the most distinguished of their kind, such as Maria Wnęk and Edmund Monsiel. The exhibition was open from July to September 2016.

Our projects
The State Ethnographic Museum in Warsaw is involved in many multidiscplinary projects - let's look at them!

"Release project" - an interdisciplinary project that aimed to develop a modern version of the old, traditional crafts, which are placed in the Basic Economy and Craft Storehouse of The State Ethnographic Museum in Warsaw. New objects were created as a result of a close cooperation between craftsmen and designers.

Hatsune Miku in The State Ethnographic Museum in Warsaw is a Polish-Japanese project created by: Mrs Teresa Seda – costume designer, Mr Akamine Hidetoshi – sculpture`s author, Mrs Elżbieta Czyżewska – curator and producer. The computer-generated Japanese musician, whose “singing” comprises many short samples of actual human voices, not only launched a debate about the nature of artistry and performance (Hatsune Miku means “first sound of the future” in Japanese). Hatsune Miku in our Museum has got her own collection of dresses inspired by Polish folk costumes.

As part of the activities for the Carnival King of Europe project (the 2nd edition (2010-2011) of which was attended by the SEM in Warsaw) a total of 10 trips was completed in Poland and abroad. Involvement in the fieldwork included participant observation as well as interviews and film and photographic documentation.

"Women's carnivals" (2015) was the first national study of women`s rituals celebrated at the end of the carnival period. Ethnographic studies that documented contemporary rites were recorded on film.The project was funded by the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage and by the Mazovia Voivodeship.

The project “A Year of Rituals with Wikipedia”. We conducted field studies in cooperation with the Wikimedia Polska Association and young volunteers interested in ethnography and cultural studies. All the material (films, photographs and articles) is available on open licenses (CC-BY-SA 4.0 and CC-BY-SA 3.0 PL).The project was funded by the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage and by the Mazovia Voivodeship.

The goal of the international "Ethnography of the Carpathians" project (2016-2017) is to collect bibliography, source material, photo and audiovisual material about authentic folklore of the region, make it available on Wikimedia Commons – and use it for better coverage of related articles on Wikipedia (in English and relevant local languages).

The project is conducted by Wikimedia Poland and by our museum. It is financed by the Wikimedia Foundation budget.

The altar is one of the basic elements of the Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico. It was presented between 11-28 November, 2016.

The altar is one of the basic elements of the Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico. In addition to traditional skulls made of sugar, drinks and food, we may also find on it some items that were dear to the departed ones. Paths piled with flowers and grains put them on the track leading to the altar, where they can feast. This altar is a combination of Mexican tradition with elements of Polish culture. Made by Oscar Becerra Mora. Cooperation: Embassy of Mexico in Poland and Museo de Arte Popular in Mexico.

The New Ethnography
A bilingual, interdisciplinary and scientific journal published by the State Ethnographic Museum in Warsaw. In a very interesting graphical and editorial layout lies interesting and thought-provoking content.

The issues discussed in the text are richly illustrated with photographs and put forward issues in line with broader reflections on culture; from cognitive anthropology to hermeneutic reading, and from theoretical discourse to Ethno Design, mass culture, folk art, museology, the precise study of individual objects, phenomena, or cultural facts.

Night of Museums 2016.

Credits: Story

The State Ethnographic Museum in Warsaw

Coordination: Klara Sielicka-Baryłka

Team: Elżbieta Czyżewska, Anastazja Stelmach, Przemysław Walczak, Anahita Rezaei, Klara Sielicka-Baryłka

Special thanks to
(photo&film): Marzena Borman, Władysław Gdowik, Edward Koprowski, Mariusz Raniszewski

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.