National Museum of Ethnography, Warsaw, Poland

The National Museum of Ethnography (Polish: Państwowe Muzeum Etnograficzne w Warszawie) is a museum of ethnography in Warsaw, Poland. It was established in 1888.

The State Ethnographic Museum – one of the oldest ethnographic museums in Poland located in Warsaw at ul. Kredytowa 1. The museum houses over 80,000 objects and about 120,000 archives.

The Ethnographic Museum presents several permanent exhibitions and over a dozen temporary exhibitions a year.

The Ethnographic Museum was founded on the initiative of patron JM Kamiński and Jan Karłowicz, who initiated the organizing committee. In 1888, an establishment was established at the Warsaw Zoological Garden, collected ethnographic collections. In 1896, thanks to the Group of Ethnography Lovers, the collection was transferred to the Museum of Industry and Agriculture, based at Krakowskie Przedmieście 66.

In 1921, museologist and expert in European ethnography Eugeniusz Frankowski took over the ethnographic collections, who transformed the institution into a modern museum conducting scientific and exhibition activity. The museum collection of 8954 exhibits in 1922 grew rapidly, and in 1939 it had about 30,000 objects. The collections were divided into three basic groups: from contemporary Poland, including valuable costumes and folk fabrics as well as the Hutsul collection of 3000 specimens; collections from Slavic and collections from other countries, constituting over 50 percent of the total resources.

Many exhibits came from private collections of Polish ethnographers, e.g. Leopold Janikowski, Jan Kubary, Bronisław Piłsudski, unique Indo – Chinese collections from Ignacy Zaremba Belakowicz and collections from China, Japan, the Middle East, Australia and other regions of the world.

Before World War II, the Library of the Ethnographic Museum belonged to the richest ethnographic libraries in the country. As a result of the outbreak of war and the bombing of Warsaw, the Museum was completely destroyed, and the collections were destroyed or lost.

In 1946, the organizational work of resurrecting the museum began. It originally operated under the name of the Museum of Folk Cultures, and its temporary seat was the historic 18th-century Brühl Palace at Młociny at ul. Museum. In 1949, the first exhibition in the post-war history of the Museum was opened. The exhibition was called “Polish folk costume”. In 1959, the Museum received a new seat – the destroyed 19th-century edifice of Towarzystwo Kredytowy Ziemskiego, located at the intersection of Kredytowa and Mazowiecka streets. Its reconstruction, financed by loans from the Ministry of Culture and Art, is planned for 1962–1972. On December 15, 1973, the Museum was officially opened in a new location. The coordinator of the work was Dr. Kazimierz Pietkiewicz, who served as the director since 1969.

In 1992, the Museum obtained the status of a national cultural institution, and in 1998 by decision of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage was entered in the State Register of Museums. Since January 2008, the director of the facility is Dr. Adam Czyżewski.

The museum has been publishing the scientific journal Ethnography New since 2009 – an anthropological periodical. The Museum has a library with a reading room. Library collections include 30,000 volumes (including antique prints and cartographic materials, and magazines). The Museum has a Department of Archival and Photographic and Film Documentation with over 120 thousand. manuscripts, photographs, negatives, posters, engravings etc.

The Museum for Children has been operating since 2012.

In 2016, the Museum was nominated for the European Museum of the Year Award – EMYA.

The collection is made up of objects, folk art, costumes, crafts, sculptures, paintings and other art from Poland, Europe, Africa, Australia, Oceania and Latin and South America.

The museum has a permanent exhibition, a library (around 26 000 volumes), a Photographic and Film Records Studio and a Central Repository for the Museum’s Collections; it produces temporary exhibitions, research projects and publications.

The Polish collection is composed of around 13500 exhibits in the permanent collection and over 1000 in the deposits.

The African collection
The African collection is the richest collection in the museum with over ten thousand objects mainly from Sub-Saharan Africa. The African collection is based on a donation by Wacław Korabiewicz which includes domestic and agricultural utensils, arms, costumes and clothing, jewelry, royal insignia, sculptures, masks and objects related to religious practices. In 1988 also Aleksandra and Cyprian Kosiński contributed to the museum’s African collection with sculptures, masks and royal costumes of the Congolese tribes Bakuba, Bakongo, Chokwe. According to the museum, one of the most important objects of the African collection are helmet masks made by the East African Makonde tribe (Tanzania, Mozambique) which came from Wacław Korabiewicz’s collection.

Carpathian culture: Czech Republic
For the 80 monuments from the Czech Republic, which are owned by NME in Warsaw as much as 75, come from the areas covered by the Carpathian settlement. These are mainly costumes, especially the almost complete female and male outfits of Jackowie – tiny Polish ethnic group living in the Czech Silesia, around the town Jablunkov. These costumes have been reproduced by artisans or made in the Department of Conservatory of NME in Warsaw on the basis of the originals of this ethnic group kept at the Teschen Silesian Museum in Cieszyn. Our museum has also a large representation of brass, silver plated buttons (up to 18 pieces) characteristic for the Jackowie costumes. These buttons are copies of originals from the Museum collections in Cieszyn, too.

NME in Warsaw has a full women’s outfit from the South Moravian region, and even some overlapping elements, such as the halls. All these elements are a gift of the National Folk Culture Institute in Strážnice in Moravia, were made in the twentieth century. Individual pieces of clothing come from other regions, as well as the 20th century corset from the Olomouc region.

Two paintings representing the culture of the Carpathians in the Czech Republic are:

glass painting “Pieta” from the 19th century from Moravia
paper painting “Ecce Homo” from Moravia from 1909
eight Easter eggs, Easter rod and a pipe from region around the town Zlín (Moravian Wallachia) made in 2017
a sculpture made by the folk artist Jan Brlica, Jr. in 2017 was featured on the sculptures of today
Descriptions of these monuments can be found in the program Musnet – electronic catalog or paper catalog at the headquarters of the NEM in Warsaw.

Carpathian culture: Slovakia
The collection consists of 196 exhibits, including the 29 oldest dating from the 19th century. These are:

– 35 Easter-eggs (from: Čadca, Veľká Čausa, Martin, Levoča, Veľký Grob, Poprad, Domaniža regions)
– 15 Christmas decorations (from regions of Čadca and Martin) and 2 sculptural Nativities (made by Anton Kadury from Podvysoká village)
– 11 potteries (origin unknown) and 1 ceramic stoup from Martin
– 22 religious glass painting (19 of them made in the 19th century and 1 titled „Carol singers” made by Zuzana Vanoušová from Čadca in 2000)
– 1 xylograph (the date of production unknown)
– 1 sculpture from a pilgrim place, made at the end of the 19th century, presenting Madonna from Zlatá Hora Monastery in the Czech Republic
– 7 religious objects (contemporary picture of Madonna from Frivaldská kalvária, contemporary rosary, painting from the middle of the 19th century, waxes ex-votos from Stará Ľubovňa (Polish: Stara Lubovla), the end of the 19th century, small stoup from Trenčín)
– wooden shelf for spoons and wooden bucket
– costumes collection: 6 complete or almost complete sets of women costumes from: Brezovo – 1910, Trenčín – 1935, Piešťany – (the date of production unknown), Brezno – 1920s, Nová Ľubovňa (Polish: Nowa Lubovla) – 1940s and 2017, Čáčov – 1930 – (girl’s costume), 1 complete man costume from Trenčín region, made in the 1920s. Also: a man’s belt from region of Liptov, woman’s beads, sheepskin coat, woman’s and man’s shoes and ruffs.

Descriptions of these monuments can be found in the program Musnet – electronic catalog or in published catalog at the headquarters of the NEM in Warsaw.

Permanent exhibitions
The Ordinary – The Extraordinary. Fascinating Collections of the State Ethnographic Museum in Warsaw – an exhibition prepared for the 120th anniversary of the State Ethnographic Museum in Warsaw in 2008.
Celebration time in Polish and European cultures – an exhibition prepared for the 125th anniversary of the State Ethnographic Museum in Warsaw, 2013. The exhibition is the largest exhibition in the history of the Museum, presenting costumes, props, religious, utilitarian, decorative and other items related to the traditions of celebrating in culture. The exhibition is accompanied by multimedia.
Order of things. Piotr B. Szacki’s magazine – the exhibition in the form of a museum magazine with the accompaniment of multimedia, exhibits related to crafts (tools in the field of obtaining and processing food, breeding, etc.). The objects are arranged according to the author’s classification of the late museum employee, ethnographer Piotr B. Szacki.

The museum is managed by a director and it is organized into the departments of Polish and European ethnography, non-European ethnography, adult education, Museum for Children, educational, communication and marketing, publications, archival material and photographic and film records, accounting and finance, personnel, administrative and technical, inventory and conservation.

The museum has published its own magazine, “Zeszyty Muzealne”, from the 1960s to the beginning of the 1980s; in October 2009 it started a new quarterly magazine called “Etnografia Nowa” [“The New Ethnography”]. In 2011 the museum received grants to renovate the building and create a children’s ethnographic museum within its walls.

Department of Ethnography of Poland and Europe
Department of Ethnography of Non-European Countries
Scientific and Educational Department
Museum for Children
Department of Archival and Photographic and Film Documentation
Organizational Team, Finance and Accounting Department, Human Resources Department, Economic and Technical Department
Inventory Department, Conservation Department, Central Collection Warehouse, Company Archives
Photographic Workshop, Film Specialist
Department of Communication

The State Ethnographic Museum in Warsaw is involved in many multidiscplinary projects.

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.

Polish-Japanese project
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.

The Carnival King of Europe
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 rituals celebration
“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 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.