Culture of Lower Silesian Village from 1945 to 1965 - exhibition presented between 1965 and 1968
The Museum's collection focuses on the issue of local culture permanence and variability - basic concern for the Lower Silesian ethnography. Authors of most exhibitions made an effort to acquaint the public with ancient and modern history of Lower Silesia perceived as the process of shaping up folk culture against ethnic and religious diversity.
Organised in 1965, the first exhibition to present a comprehensive picture of the regional way of life was entitled Culture of Lower Silesian Village from 1945 to 1965. The next permanent exhibition of this kind - The Old and the New of a Lower Silesian Village - was opened in 1985. Several other expositions in the Museum concentrated on selected issues in a more detailed way providing the visitors with an opportunity to learn more.
Lower Silesians - Memories, Culture, Identity is a new permanent exhibition prepared in the new residence. Contrary to the previous displays it presents the issue of culture clash from an individual point of view. The exhibits have been incorporated into the history of Lower Silesians, their every day routine, special occasion rituals, systems of value, feelings of eradication and the ways they adapted to the new environment.
Old Lower Silesian Village - exhibition presented between 1971 and 1976
Human story has been highlighted through numerous photographs arranged as a background for descriptions of the Lower Silesian population ethnic structure; they are also supposed to illustrate tradition and customs as well as stories about families which represented various ethnic groups of settlers from diverse regions.
The exhibition depicts two images of the folk culture: relatively stable, though diversified, culture of the 19th century and the post-war reality - a mixture of newcomers' traditions sprinkled with local identity. Exhibits representing old traditional culture of Lower Silesia prove close connections between towns and villages where factory made products are not a rarity. House interior, not meant to be an identical reconstruction of an original one, has been equipped with perfectly made pained furniture such as a wardrobe, a chest of drawers, a table, a trunk, stools, a cradle and a bed. Among smaller household items there is a bookshelf, cast spoon cases, salt cellars and all sorts of boxes.
Lower Silesians - Memories, Culture, Identity - fragment of permanent exhibition
Walls are decorated with glass paintings depicting images of Virgin Mary from Silesian pilgrimage centres or the saints popular with the local society. Furthermore one can admire chromolithographs and pictures embroidered on canvas. Several dishes have been placed on shelves. Figures of pre-war Lower Silesians appearing all around the exhibition have been dressed in attires modelled after the bourgeoisie garments. Folk costumes abandoned in the second half of 19th century were dominated by elements characteristic for the regions of Wrocław, Kłodzko, Wałbrzych, Jelenia Góra, the Karkonosze Mountains, Głogów, Nysa and Kaczawsko-Nadbobrzański region. Relatively few examples of folk costumes survived in the Museum collection. Most of them were tailored at the turn of 19th and 20th century and fail to show the particular regional character. Quite many exhibits representing women's attire usually are dark coloured and tailored in the Renaissance mode. Such costumes consist of short cropped jackets with puff tapering sleeves, long skirts with white linen open-work embroidered aprons, chest-crossed white or colourful embroidered shawl kerchiefs and lavishly embellished coifs.
Lower Silesian folk arts - paintings on glass, canvas and plank along with sculpture - have been presented in a separate section. The exhibits prove the mastery of the old artists of the region. Regional crafts are represented by examples of cooperage, weaving, pottery, smithery, gingerbread bakery and woodcarving. Cooperage - the craft of making stave vessels - was present in the Silesia region even in prehistoric times. In 18th and 19th century ca. 400 cooper's workshops were in operation.
No household could do without hollow ware, including in particular oak casks used for pickling cabbage or cucumbers and for storing beer, buckets for salted meat, bread kneading-troughs, dasher or hand-cranked churns, water pails and jugs, water vats, milking pails, and wash tubs. In the second half of 19th century the products were being gradually replaced by factory-made metal ware. Cooper's workshop was usually arranged in one of bedrooms in a house or in an outbuilding. Apart from a cooper's products a visitor to the exhibition enjoys the possibility to see several tools as well including kobylica - special framework used to support a stave while a cooper was working on it, wątornik - a tool for cutting grooves in staves, wooden compasses as well as wooden pliers and buckles used for fixing hoops on vessels.
Weaving industry in Lower Silesia developed not only as home craft to fulfil one's own individual needs but also as cottage industry - often the main source of income for the whole village, particularly in the Sudety region and neighbouring areas. Fabrics were produced to comfort both domestic and foreign, mostly English and American, market demand. First half of the 20th century saw a decline of the craft due to the expansion of textile industry. Local craft of weaving involved also hand made dying and printing. The exhibition presents decoratively carved wooden blocks and a table cloth adorned by means of such technology, so-called blaudruk.
Lower Silesians - Memories, Culture, Identity - fragment of permanent exhibition
The diorama section of the exhibition recalls so-called spinning evenings organised in many towns and villages throughout Lower Silesia at the beginning of 20th century. The participants, every time wearing traditional folk costumes, would always gather around a spinning wheel. Various kinds of spinning wheels and primitive looms are also presented at the display.
Stoneware, earthenware and clay pottery were used in country houses both for practical and for decorative purposes. Pottery workshops, popular even in 17th century, disappeared entirely at the beginning of 19th century. Traditional craft of pottery declined due to increasing import of factory-made metal vessels or being dominated by the Bolesławiec pottery - oil bottles, water containers, cake and jelly forms.
The craft of smithery was present in the Lower Silesian village since the Middle Ages. Until the end of 18th century blacksmiths would supply local farmers with ploughs, metal fittings for all kinds of wooden farming tools, shovels, hoes and sickles. Lower Silesian blacksmiths created also iron grave and roadside crosses, fence elements, window bars, hinges, locks for doors, wardrobes and trunks, cart and tool fittings as well as household appliances - axes, choppers, knives, torch holders, etc. Almost every village would have at least one smithy equipped with a hearth and leather bellows used for blowing air into a fire. In the centre of his workshop the blacksmith would place one or two different size anvils. Various tool kits could be found on the walls, spread around on the tables and shelves. The exhibition presents first of all adorned smithery products such as embellished cart's fittings including decorative dated anvils from the Museums valuable collection of 26 such items. Traditional smithery declined at the end of 19th century.
Washbasin, 18th century, Lower Silesia
Lower Silesia was also considered an established centre of gingerbread bakery. The full bloom was reported from 16th to 18th century; no wonder then that in those times gingerbread making workshops could be found in most Silesian towns and cities. Wrocław itself had 6 gingerbread workshops while other towns would host 1 to 3 shops. Relatively few workshops were seated in villages as gingerbread products used to be quite costly due to expensive ingredients, such as honey and roots, used in the process of baking and hence considered distinguished and elite in character. Gingerbread gained popularity due to introduction cane syrup and later sugar extracted from sugar beets. Such sugar was first produced in Lower Silesian village of Konary in 1801. At the end of 18th century and in the 19th century gingerbread production was partially taken over by provincial workshops and professional factories. The production process was slowly getting simplified while artistically adorned forms were handed over to museums' collections.
The exhibition presents only a dozen or so gingerbread forms out of the whole group which consists of several hundred items. They might have been made either by master bakers themselves or by hired artisans. Some were even made by professional woodcarvers and wood-engravers or even by artist sculptors.
Elaborate engraving and lavish ornamentation place them in between craft and art. Folk woodcarving is also represented at the exhibition by decorative butter moulds and shepherds' bell bows.
Some exhibits illustrate everyday household activities: foot-mill for bruising grains carved in wooden blocks, hand-mill, all sorts of hues, harvesting devices, knives, pitchforks, rakes, scythe and capling flails with heavy swipple, yokes, cradle churn, knife sharpener and manure slide. The exhibits include also horse collars, horse yokes and sleigh bells. he visitors have the opportunity to admire a hive made of straw (koszka) or carved in a tree trunk as well as fishing tools.
Cross-stitch towel, ca. 1935, Czernica, vicinity of Mikołajów, Lviv Province
Newcomers who arrived in the region after the WW II settled down in villages of different character. In this period new multi-chamber, often two-storey, brick and stone houses with big outbuildings were not a rarity in this area. Wooden framework buildings and even more typical examples of half-timbered architecture survived in the Sudety Zachodnie mountains and in the foreland, The exhibition presents a fragment of half-timbered wall with characteristic bundles of straw wrapped around pillars joint together with clay. Houses to be inhabited by settlers were usually equipped with factory-made French polished furniture. Even before the war the village had been electrified and most households introduced specialised production machinery. Traditional tools survived only as relics.
Newcomers - expatriates with their own habits, skills and established vision of life - had to find themselves in totally different environment, in the world incomparable to the one they had left behind. Most emigrants arrived in Lower Silesia from eastern borderlands - from the provinces of Stanisławów, Lviv, Tarnopol, from Volhunia and Polesia. Fewer newcomers poured in from Vilnius and Nowogródek territories. Emigrants flowing in from overcrowded areas of central and southern Poland such as the provinces of Cracow, Warsaw, Łódź and neighbouring Wielkopolska. Lower Silesia welcomed Poles and their descendants returning from Romania and Yugoslavia. The collection does not show any records of immigrants returning back home from France and Belgium or political immigrants from Greece. Researchers find it interesting to study the process of hard adjustment of Lemkos relocated involuntarily to Lower Silesia under the Wisła project.
Personal items brought by the immigrants account for an invaluable part of the collection. Apart from family mementoes or the possessions of high value, there were also useful household items indispensable in everyday life.
What made each group different from the others was their special occasion costumes. They were made of home-made elements as well as ready components - integral modules of traditional costumes - which could be purchased in towns only. Manifestation of ethnic uniqueness was not welcomed in the first years after the war, therefore the traditional attire slipped into obscurity and numerous elements of the costumes found their way straight from the trunks to the Museum. Lavishly embroidered shirts from Lviv and Tarnopol, Hutzul sheepskin jackets adorned with embroidery and leather and Polish shirts from Romanian Bukovina decorated with fine beads deserve special attention. Moreover the collection includes white and red coloured costumes from Polesia as well as gay striped clothes of the Łowicz and Opoczno provinces. Dowry trunks (presented at the exhibition) contained fabrics of many kinds - cross-stitch towels from Lviv, geometrical patterned towels from Polesia, decorative bedspreads from Vilnius, Hutzul kilims decorated with geometrical ornaments.
Tools and household items characteristic for particular ethnic groups are represented by cast-iron pots and hay yoke (so-called rezginie) from Vilnius province, large straw basket (so-called szyjan) for carrying cereals from Polesia, Pokuttya ceramics and also shepherds' tools from Romanian Bukovina.
Accurate realities of all the settlers' life prior to their arrival in Lower Silesia and during the first years of immigrant life were recorded on the family pictures displayed at the exhibition. Under the educational projects the Museum presents documentaries dealing with Lemko, Jewish and Greek settlers. They are aimed at introducing the audience to the plentiful and multidimensional culture of Lower Silesia.