Apart from regions where folklore still plays an important role and is alive such as Podhale (Tatras regions), Śląsk Cieszyński (part of Silesia), Łowicz area, Kurpie area there are many villages where folk culture is still cultivated. They are usually connected with one or only a few type of folk art e.g. Koniaków is famous for laces, Łowicz is famous for its embroidery, clothes and cutouts, Chmielno and Kartuzy are famous for ceramics.
Ethnographic museums are usually located in big cities. They can be found in Warsaw, Wrocław and Kraków. Some smaller parts of bigger museums exhibitions can also be found in Olsztyn, Płock and Sieradz.
Probably the most important museums that specializes in folk culture is Ethnographic Museum in Warsaw. It is one of the oldest ethnographic museums in Poland located in Warsaw at 1 Kredytowa Street. The museum was founded in 1888 and houses over 80,000 objects and about 120,000 archives. The largest permanent gallery is called “Time to celebrate”. The visitors can see there national costumes, festive clothing from Poland and Europe, paintings, sculptures, Christmas decorations and props. The next gallery , "Order of Things", presents tools related to farming, various ways of obtaining food, such as collecting, fishing and beekeeping. Third gallery „Biblia Pauperum” shows the most outstanding works from the museum collection referring to the biblical themes of salvation present in folk art. The museum also organizes temporary exhibitions.
When it comes to folklore promotion open air museums are one of the most important mediums. Tourists can usually easily relate to secular and treasury architecture as well as such fields of folk art as sculpture, painting, ceramics, weaving, embroidery, lace making, cut-outs, ornaments of objects, as well as various types of ceremonies and events.
Open air museums or folk museums in Poland are often called ethnographic parks, museums of countryside or museums of countryside architecture. They gather together houses, farm constructions, manufacturing buildings and sacral ones. Usually exhibitions include interior design of one or a few regions of a given ethnographic group. The oldest open air museum in Poland is located in Wdzydze Kiszewskie and was opened in 1906. The most often visited open air museums include big facilities such as in Zubrzyca Górna, Olsztynek, Sanok, Opole Bierkowice, Sierpc and Dziekanowice.
The offer of ethnographic and open air museums in Poland is really wide. Tourists can find facilities of this type in: Białystok, Biłgoraj, Bogdaniec, Chmielno, Chochołów, Chorzów, Ciechanowiec, Gdańsk Oliwa, Kadzidło, Kartuzy, Kluki, Kłóbka, Kolbuszowa, Kraków, Kudowa Zdrój, Lednogóra, Lublin, Łącko, Łódź, Nowogród, Nowy Sącz, Ochla, Olsztynek, Opole, Osiek nad Notęcią, Podegrodzie, Poznań, Radom, Sanok, Sierpc, Szymbark, Tarnów, Tokarnia, Toruń, Warsaw, Wdzydze Kiszewskie, Wisła, Włocławek, Wrocław, Wygiełzów, Zakopane, Zalipie, Złaków Borowy and Zubrzyca Górna.
It is really worth to mention here two more ways of promoting Polish folk culture. First one is folk bands. Here the most distinct role play Song and Dance Ensembles Mazowsze and Śląsk that promote Poland in the country and abroad. Mazowsze repertoire incorporates folklore of 42 regions of Poland. It is a group of 100 artists, 8 tons of luggage, 1500 costumes and 60 years of experience. Mazowsze has travelled 2.3 million kilometers and served 17 million viewers. It has given concerts in 168 places in Poland and performed 213 foreign tours and given over 6.5 thousand concerts. Śląsk visited 44 countries on five continents. The band gave over 8,000 concerts for over 26 million viewers. The artistic composition of Ślask is over 100 people and includes a choir, ballet and orchestra. Both ensambles shows include mesmerizing range of songs and dances in whole scope of beautiful folklore costumes. Observing Mazowsze or Śląsk shows is always truly memorable experience that stays for long. The other form, are regular folklore events that take place in come villages or towns. This events take place in for example Bukowina Tatrzańska, Gdańsk, Kazimierz Dolny, Kraków, Łącko, Płock, Zakopane, Zielona Góra and Żywiec.
It is situated about 110 km from Kraków (1h 30 min drive) and 80 km from Kielce (1h 40 min drive). Zalipie is called “a painted village” as it is famous for its folk art painted houses. Currently, there are 20 painted houses there, also a painted health centre and a fire brigade headquarters. Tradition of such decorations in Zalipie has over 100 years. These unusual works of art can be admired especially in Felicja Curyłowa House, which is Regional Museum nowadays, and in the House of Painters. The museum also offers art workshops for visitors. Zalipie female artists decorate with flower patterns not only their houses but also barns, wells, benches, chicken coops, fences and even kennels. Every year on weekend after Corpus Christi holiday there is a contest for the prettiest house. Therefore, it is the best period to visit this colourful village. Zalipie is an excellent choice for all folk art lovers.
Sierpc is situated 102 km from Toruń (about 1h 40 min drive) and 132 km from Warsaw (about 1 h 45 min drive). This open-air ethnographical museum has the area of more than 60 hectares and the exhibition covers 10 farmsteads, an inn, a smithy, a windmill, a chapel, a church, and an estate manor. In the museum we can also enjoy exhibitions of current and historic folk sculpture, a coach house with various means of manor transport vehicles and manor house interiors from the 19th and 20th century. During summer the museum can be visited individually or with a guide, during winter seasons only with a guide. Sightseeing takes about 2-3 h. Sierpc museum is a living center, tourists often can enjoy open air events such as: cereal harvest, Sunday in the museum with presentations of vanishing occupations, potatoes harvest, spring customs, cooking in a field, Easter, honey harvest etc. Apart from these events the museum offers special workshops for schools, conferences, picnics and horse rides. Ethnographic Museum in Sierpc is really worth knowing.
The ethnographic park was created in 1973 displaying folk culture of Krakow Province. The museum is close to Lipowiec Castle that can be visited at the same time. In the museum we can admire original wooden cottages with exceptionally rich, original interior fittings. Apart from cottages visitors can see barns, granaries, a pigsty, a forge and an oil mill, as well as a historic church from Ryczów from the beginning of the 17th century. The current exhibition includes 27 historic wooden buildings enriched with small architecture (chapels, wells, apiaries), which have been located in the small-town and rural sectors. The Vistula Ethnographic Park presents the culture of Western Cracovians. It is also possible to order original folk workshops for groups.
It is an open-air museum of the Wielkopolska countryside (a branch of the Museum of the First Piasts) located on the shores of Lake Lednica and gathering, securing and displaying architectural objects and objects from the Wielkopolska region. It is located 35 km from Poznań about 42 min drive. In the park there are organized annual events reflecting the life cycle of the former village: Pentecost, Corpus Christi processions, Harvest Festival and events illustrating old activities. They give an opportunity to see how the villagers celebrated and worked. There is also a gastronomic point in the open-air museum serving local specialties.
Summing up, Poland has really much to offer in terms of folklore culture, this is probably why it is so well-known in this respect abroad. We truly recommend visiting ethnographic museums in the country and we gladly help to prepare trip plans including such elements in our schedules. Just contact ITS Poland group specialists and start to discover the beauty of Polish countryside culture.
Author: Agnieszka Szwedzińska