Museums

It’s not another boring museum – this is the slogan advertising the Amber Museum in Jarosławiec. It is the place where the decorations, pictures, smells, sounds, and, of course exhibits, tell an interesting story about amber.

The Amber Department of the PAS Museum of the Earth is currently running its third resource query on “Amber in Polish Museums”. Recent findings have shown that amber is kept in at least 140 Polish museums. This overview only mentions selected Museum collections.

The collection was accumulated for the purposes of commodity science, research and exhibition. It is related to my work as an amber identification expert; it helps and makes it easier for me to judge the quality of the material and to determine the technological process used on it.

Amber artefacts made in Gdansk and Königsberg in the craft's heyday from the 16 th to the mid-18 th century came to Sweden in a variety of ways. Some of them were ordered by members of the Royal Family from the master amber craft artists both in Königsberg (e.g. Georg Schreiber and Johan Kohn) and in Gdansk; documented sources confirm that amber items were sent to the Swedish court by Michel Redlin, the famous Gdansk guild master. A number of items were bequeathed in wills (chiefly from Denmark ). We cannot rule out, however, that many of the amber artefacts in Sweden come from the mass looting done by the Swedish army during the Thirty Years' War and the Deluge.
In the early 20 th century, the former summer residence of the Russian Tsars, the most important building of the giant Tsarskoye Selo palace and park complex, received the name of the Palace of Catherine I, the wife and later successor of Peter I on the throne of the Russian Empire.
The Amber Museum in Kaliningrad is the only Museum in Russia dedicated to a single mineral. Thanks to the proximity of the Palmnicken deposit, the largest amber deposit in the world, it was possible to assemble a varied natural and scientific collection of the precious stone, including a collection of amber with plant and animal inclusions. We also collect ornaments and applied art dating from the Neolithic Age to contemporary times.

The Moscow Kremlin, originally a fortified castle built on a hill by the River Moskva by Prince Yuri Dolgoruki in 1147, was expanded in the early 16th century and sheltered the seat of the rulers of the Grand Duchy of Moscow, regular army barracks, a grand armoury and several magnificent churches over a total area of 28 hectares, circled by walls with numerous gates and towers.

 

The enormous St Petersburg museum, which boasts grand collections of artworks, the heirlooms of the tsars and many other precious objects, has a comparatively modest amber collection. The collection has only 105 items, but some of them are sets made of many individual items, for instance a chessboard with 32 chess pieces or a flirt game (a very large box with four smaller boxes inside, and over a dozen chips with engraved pictures in each of the smaller boxes).
In antiquity, Aquileia was one of the dynamic craft centres of the Roman Empire . It was founded in 181 BCE as a commercial settlement and gained renown as a place of manufacture of bronze and glass products. However, its true claim to fame and fortune came from the amber imported from the Baltic coast starting in the 1 st century CE. Roman merchants would take off from Aquileia to the north via the famous Amber Route , which served as the main trade road to “barbaric” countries, already during the times of Celtic dominance in central Europe .
Berlin’s collections of historical amber artefacts from the modern era, although mostly relatively late – from the early 1700s – are top class in terms of craftsmanship, scale (size), artistic value and gripping content, both sacred and secular.
Established in 1852, the London-based Victoria & Albert Museum is one of the largest art museums in the world, with 4.5 million exhibits. The world class compendium contains collections of applied and decorative art which cover a period of 3 thousand years, from the oldest civilisations of the East up until the present. The leading collections include: the art of Asia , Ceramics, Furniture, Glass, Metalwork, Paintings and Drawings, Sculpture, Textiles, Photography. The museum has a number of valuable historical amber items which, however, do not make up a separate collection. The majority of amber artefacts belong to the Department of Sculpture but some are also registered in the Metalwork or even the Furniture collection.
The collection at Rosenborg Castle in Copenhagen includes a large and very interesting collection of amber artefacts. These works are not grouped in a single exhibition dedicated solely to amber, but are dispersed among other magnificent treasures assembled at the Castle. The specificity of the Rosenborg collection and the way it is presented is not without historical reason. Rosenborg Castle was built in a Late Renaissance style in the early 17 th century and was the royal residence for almost 100 years.
The Vienna Museum of Art possesses rich amber treasures in its various collections. But only a few of them, rare pieces, are exhibited. Most of them belong to various collections in the department of Decorative Arts, the Sculpture Collection and the Ecclesiastical Treasury. They come to light for specific exhibitions, such as Amber for Throne and Altar which ran from October 2005 to January 2006.

The Museum of Natural History of the Institute of Systematics and Evolution of Animals at the Polish Academy of Sciences in Krakow originates from the Physiographic Commission formed in 1865. Opened to the public in 1888, its first exhibition comprised geological and ornithological collections displayed on an area of 265 m 2 in the rooms of a building in Slawkowska St. in Krakow; the first guide for the public visiting the geological exhibition was also written at the time. The turmoil of war, political changes and financial difficulties led to flux in the size of the Museum's exhibition and storage space, but, fortunately, thanks to the dedication and commitment on the part of its staff did not result in its closing. (The detailed story of Polish museums of natural history is outlined in Jerzy Pawlowski's book “Szkic dziejów muzealnictwa przyrodniczego w Polsce” [An Outline of the History of Natural History Museums in Poland].)

 

 

In 1946, Adam Chętnik began to establish the Museum in Lomza, taking special care in the organising of its amber department. In a relatively short time, he collected over 700 exhibits which included not only amber itself, but also other objects which broaden our knowledge about amber, explain how it formed, where it came from, its travels, extraction, processing and use .
Amber products began to be collected at Malbork Castle shortly after the museum was established there (1961), while the permanent “History of Amber” exhibition was opened four years later, in July 1965. It was a novel and ambitious idea, all the more so because at the time the items available in the market were mainly mass produced at the Amber Artefacts Factory in Gdańsk-Wrzeszcz or bought as small souvenirs through the Cepelia folk-art institution.

The Museum of Amber Inclusions at the University of Gdansk has operated since June 1998 as a laboratory at the Department of Invertebrate Zoology. The Museum was established upon the initiative of its current director, Prof. Ryszard Szadziewski, who donated his private collection of amber inclusions to the newly-established institution. Further exhibits were donated by amber jewellers and private collectors. Today, with almost 13,000 animal inclusions, the Museum boasts the second largest (after the Museum of the Earth of the Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN) in Warsaw) collection of inclusions in Poland. Furthermore, thanks to the Museum's collaboration with the International Amber Association, it has the technical facilities necessary for professional amber treatment.

The Amber Museum is a branch of the Historical Museum of the City of Gdańsk and is located in the Foregate Complex of Długa St. Following several years of refurbishment, the Museum’s official opening, took place on June 28, 2006. Today, the Museum takes up all the floors of the historical Prison Tower, with each floor dedicated to a different amber-related issue.
Jerzy Kamrowski The exhibition at the Archaeological Museum in Gdańsk entitled Amber Through the Millennia shows not only the resin’s (succinite’s) biological structure, which was characteristic of the old Gdańsk collections, but also its presence in archaeological cultures.