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Friday, 08 August 2014 18:48

We Can Talk about Amber in Many Different Ways – an Interview with Max Kwiatkowski

Written by  Anna Sado

Amber is a fascinating topic, though you need to know how to get information about it into people's hands. Or perhaps even their subconsciousness...? Max Kwiatkowski, the originator of a private Amber Museum in Jarosławiec has found the way.

The Amber Museum in Jarosławiec has been open for a month and a half. Do you think you have any reasons for satisfaction?

Many. Without an advertising campaign, only as a result of the interest from the local media and our activity on the Internet we have attracted many visitors to come to the museum. They are mainly organised groups – from nursery kids to senior citizens. We have a different approach to our visitors, depending on their age. We tell children about about amber by creating a fairy-tale like reality, which is an entirely different approach than in the case of seniors, who have encountered amber on many occasions. When I opened the museum I was hoping that I would make people interested in amber, but they have become truly fascinated with it! Some of them promise that will come back next year, when they are leaving the museum. I must admit that I didn't expect that.

Jarosławiec is a place where people come to relax, but lying on the beach does eventually get boring...

I wouldn't fully agree. Visiting a private museum where admission costs over 10 PLN is definitely a conscious decision. I can see what kind of visitors we have: they are not people who got bored with the beach, but people who really want to learn something about amber. They come from such places as Ustka or Darłowo which are located nearby, but are at least as attractive for tourists as Jarosławiec. And yet, they come...

What is the reason, in your opinion?

Amber, of course. I have noticed that although a lot is said about amber – or at least so it seems to the people professionally connected with amber – yet it is not reflected in common knowledge. For the people visiting the museum it is a bit like discovering America. And I am incredibly happy about that, as it means that my idea has worked out. I knew from the start that I wanted to create a museum for laymen – the people who don't know a lot about amber. My job is to get them interested in the topic so much that they would leave the museum with a head full of knowledge. I have spent a long time thinking on how to achieve this goal. I knew that the museum had to be non-standard and convey knowledge about amber in a non-standard way. This is why our reading information off a board on the wall or a label in a showcase cabinet is not what matters the most at my museum. It is really important that we convey the information in a way that strongly influences the senses: through decorations, picture, light, smell and sound. Thanks to that our visitors don't even realise when their head gets full of “amber”: they know how it was created, how it got to the Lubelskie region, and how the insects got enclosed in it. And this is exactly what I wanted to achieve.

The exhibits are impressive as well...

Yes, the largest two blocks of amber, of over kilogram in weight – such blocks are quite rare and are very expensive. Mine have also unique history: one of them was fished out in Gdańsk 25 years ago, the other one comes from the mine in Bełchatów. The true rarity, though, is a block of very rare, blue Baltic amber of over 70 grams in weight. It also has history: its previous owner didn't like to part with his treasure, that's why after a long process of negotiation I had to sign a declaration that I will not cut it and make jewellery of it, but that I will exhibit it at the museum. I think this block amazes the visitors most – it really is exceptionally beautiful. The second most popular exhibit are inclusions – I did my best to select them to make sure that they are visually attractive. My ambition was to gather the most unique ones, the insects rarely occurring in amber. Thus, I have a diptera trying to get out of the resin trap, a grasshopper ready to jump, or a spider eating an ant. They might be less valuable to a scientist, but surely very interesting for our visitors .

You are 23 years old and an unusual passion. Where does your interest in amber come from?

I have been living at the seaside since I was born, so amber has always been on my mind. Business-wise I got interested in it when I was 18 years old: I opened a stall with souvenirs, among which were products with amber. They were the ones that sold best, so at some point I concentrated on them. I got interested in amber, I started to find out more about it – this is how my passion and the idea to open the museum came about. I discovered that amber is an incredibly attractive topic, you can talk about it and show it in many interesting aspects: from the fascinating story of trees releasing resin over 40 million years ago, through inclusions which are the evidence for life in the old times, to the Amber Chamber or contemporary references to the ancient amber routes in Poland and Europe. And this is only a small part of what amber has to offer. This is why I had the idea to use those possibilities as themes for cyclical temporary exhibitions. This year, together with Eryk Popkiewicz we are planning to open an exhibition devoted to amber hunters – with photos, films form the archives and contemporary ones, scoop nets and poles, and the beach, of course the type with sand and sand-line vegetation. In the near future, I am also planning to open a virtual museum, so as anybody would be able to visit it in a special application for mobile devices. I am also thinking about extending the line of cosmetics prepared on an amber base, which are produced for me using specially prepared recipes... I really have lots of ideas. Amber is a fantastic inspiration. And most of all, it is an infinite inspiration.

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Anna Sado

Anna Sado

Trade journalist specialising in jewellery related topics. Since 2007 has been co-creator of the amber portal amber.com.pl

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