Kraków - unusual museums. Extinct species, poisons and aphrodisiacs, and the atomic horror of Nowa Huta

Green iguana, or lizard, resting on a branch
Museum. This word often creates associations with boring, dusty exhibits or moving from one room to another in museum slippers. Well, it does not always have to look like this. Among museums, there are also ones that have pretty unusual and intriguing exhibits.

We recommend some unusual museums in Kraków, which, let us say, differ a bit from traditional establishments. Instead of boredom, they are horror, such as the Museum of the Department of Forensic Medicine of Jagiellonian University's Collegium Medicum. 

The Museum of the Department of Forensic Medicine of the Jagiellonian University Medical College. Traces of crime

Axes, skulls, fragments of skin. On the shelves lie hearts pierced with knives, and heads with bullet holes are next to them. Foetuses scare us from jars filled with formalin, and hanged men's nooses hang in another display case. This is not a horror film. These are the exhibits in the Museum of the Department of Forensic Medicine in Kraków, in the building at 16 Grzegórzecka Street. This peculiar place also hides parts of the bodies of murder victims, tools of the crime and instruments used to dissect corpses. The Museum's collections include exhibits from as far back as the late 19th century. They primarily serve students of medicine and law. The idea is to show future doctors and lawyers the effects of severe and unprecedented crimes. In this way, they learn, for example, what a bullet wound or a skull after being hit with a heavy object looks like. However, a person "off the street" can not enter here. Access to the peculiar Museum of the Department of Forensic Medicine in Kraków is allowed only to scientists and students of medicine and law as part of their classes. 

The Textbook Museum, Pedagogical University. From General Anders’ Army

Among the numerous collections of the Main Library of the Pedagogical University in Kraków, there is one extraordinary collection. Over the years, the curricula changed due to many educational reforms in our country; thereby, textbooks lying on the library shelves began to gather dust instead of serving the students. The librarians then took the initiative to give these books a second life and set up a unique collection - the Textbook Museum. The group is constantly being developed and updated. Currently, the Museum consists of about 2,000 copies of specially selected books - school textbooks from all levels of education. These are publications for general education, vocational education and students with special educational needs. The oldest school textbook in the collection of the Textbook Museum is "Algiebra podług Lacroix na szkoły wojewódzkie (ułożona przez Antoni Dąbrowskiego)" (Algebra according to Lacroix for provincial schools (arranged by Antoni Dąbrowski)), published in Warsaw in 1818. Three small Polish language textbooks are also exciting exhibits. They were published in 1943 in Jerusalem by the Rules and Publications Committee of the Polish Army in the East and were intended for the children of soldiers from General Władysław Anders' Army. 

•    The Textbook Museum of the Pedagogical University of Kraków, 2 Podchorążych Street

The Natural History Museum of the Polish Academy of Sciences. The oldest woolly rhinoceros in the world

The Natural History Museum is situated at the Institute of Systematics and Evolution of Animals of the Polish Academy of Sciences. Its beginnings date back to 1865 when the Physiographic Commission, founded by the Kraków Scientific Society, was established, and a museum, then called the Physiographic Museum, was simultaneously set up. The collection of the Natural History Museum of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Kraków comprises over two million specimens. The most valuable of these include a unique, some 30,000-year-old example of a woolly rhinoceros from Starunia in the Podkarpacie region and a 14,000-year-old skull of the Mammuthus primigenius mammoth from Bzianka near Rzeszów. It is an extraordinary place where you can see what no longer exists today, i.e. extinct animal species, and learn about evolutionary processes and mutations. In the permanent exhibition "Molluscs of the World", you can get acquainted with already extinct ammonites and modern living cephalopods, bivalves and snails from all over the world. "Conversation with Stone" is an exhibition of minerals and fossils donated to the Museum by Zbylut Grzywacz, a painter, graphic artist and collector. "The World of Mammoth Hunters. Palaeolithic - Nature and Art" is a permanent exhibition presenting fossil remains of extinct animals belonging to the so-called Pleistocene megafauna, including mammoths, cave bears and giant deer. The most valuable specimen is the woolly rhinoceros, which, along with the mammoth, is a giant herbivore of the Ice Age. It is the only specimen of a rhinoceros preserved in its entirety with skin and is about 30,000 years old.

•    The Natural History Museum of the Institute of Systematics and Evolution of Animals, Polish Academy of Sciences, 9 Świętego Sebastiana Street

The Museum of Pharmacy of the Collegium Medicum at the Jagiellonian University. Magic mixtures

Poisons, leeches, unicorn horns, Spanish flies, Polish quills and centipedes. In the Museum of Pharmacy of the Jagiellonian University, you will find magical mixtures and mysterious apothecary instruments. It is one of the few museums of its kind in the world. It was established in 1946 by the District Pharmacy Chamber. It is located on the Royal Route at 25 Florianska Street in a historic burgher tenement house. The permanent exhibition occupies five building levels - from 14th-century cellars to the attic. The exhibits on display illustrate the history of pharmacy from the Middle Ages to the present. These are pharmacy utensils, including an impressive collection of maiolica from many European manufacturers, mortars of various sizes and shapes, laboratory equipment and other pharmacy utensils, therapeutic raw materials, souvenirs of distinguished pharmacists, a philatelic collection on the history of pharmacy, as well as curiosities related to old medicine. In addition, the Museum houses a recreated interior of a 19th-century pharmacy, as well as other rooms, such as a former pharmacy laboratory, a cellar with barrels and bottles for medicinal wines and an attic used for drying and storing medicinal herbs.

•    The Museum of Pharmacy of the Jagiellonian University, Kraków, 25 Florianska Street

Underground Nowa Huta. Atomic horror

Perhaps not everyone knows that there are over a hundred shelters in the area, or somewhat under Nowa Huta, the youngest district of Kraków. They were built during the Cold War, while Nowa Huta was being constructed. An underground hospital, a command centre, an air raid shelter - all this under the district's streets, pavements and backyards. Currently, as part of the project "Atomic horror. Shelters in Nowa Huta", prepared by the Museum of Nowa Huta, you can learn about the circumstances of the construction of shelters in the People's Republic of Poland, the Cold War conflict and accompanying propaganda, as well as about the shelter infrastructure in Nowa Huta. Two shelters are now open to the public. One of them is in the 37 Szkolne housing estate in the vaults of the Mechanical School Complex, the other in the Museum of the New Steelworks at Plac Centralny, under the former "Światowid" cinema. You can also visit the shelter under the building of the steelworks complex (former Lenin Steelworks). An underground passage connects the buildings, and the shelter located here is the real command post of the steelworks. The tour starts from Management Building "Z". The entrance hall leads to conference room 157, a winding staircase, the office of the Managing Director with its private area, the engineer's office and the main control room of the plant. Next, through an underground tunnel connecting the "Z" and "S" buildings, one reaches the second building, under which the late 1950s Command Post shelter is located. The shelter under the Stefan Żeromski Hospital is the largest in Nowa Huta, as it covers about 600 square metres. In the event of a threat of war, it was to be transformed into an underground hospital. The wounded from all over Nowa Huta were to be brought here and treated. Among other things, there is an operating theatre with equipment dating back several dozen years. 

•    The Museum of Nowa Huta, Kraków, Nowa Huta, E 1 Centrum estate

Jan Matejko Manor House and ... Nowa Huta

Many visitors to the Nowa Huta lagoon are unaware that just behind a wall of park trees lies an exceptional monument - the manor house of Master Jan Matejko. The manor house has a long history and .... luck to outstanding inhabitants. The first was Hugo Kołłątaj, a political activist of the Enlightenment period, co-author of the first European constitution. He became the owner as rector of the Kraków Academy. He surrounded the manor house with an extensive park. After the Second Partition of Poland in 1793, Kołłątaj was forced to emigrate, and his estate was confiscated. He never returned to the manor, although he is said to have dreamt of doing so for the rest of his life. The second prominent resident was Jan Matejko, considered by many the greatest Polish painter of the 19th century. He bought the estate in 1876 with the money he received from the sale of his painting Batory at Psków. From then on, the manor was his favourite place to rest. Fascinated with Polish history, he used to walk from here to the monastery in Mogiła and to the Mound of Wanda, where the eagle monument of his design was erected. Matejko also planned to extend the manor. However, only the porch was realised, which remains the artist's only architectural design. Since 1960, the Society of Friends of Fine Arts has owned the manor house and has turned it into a museum. Here you can see Matejko's paintings, including the famous Poczet Królów i Książąt Polskich (A Selection of Polish Kings and Princes), as well as the artist's memorabilia - easels, chests for drawings, household objects. One room is also dedicated to Kołłątaj. A 4-hectare park surrounds the manor house.

•    Jan Matejko Manor House in Nowa Huta, 25 Melchiora Wańkowicza Street


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