Open-air museums in the Małopolska region - history comes alive

The photo shows the open-air museum in Nowy Sącz. In the foreground, vegetation in spring form, while in the background there is an open-air museum-building that is part of the Galician Town.
Open-air museums are an interesting idea for discovering history, old customs, crafts and culture. The Małopolska region boasts a rich cultural heritage, which we can discover in numerous open-air museums in our region. Authentic peasant huts, lord's mansions, hundred-year-old taverns or wooden windmills. Such surroundings mean that you can move into a historical space and feel it with all your senses.

The word "open-air museum" originally defined a park-museum in Stockholm opened in 1891 by Arthur Hazelius. It presents monuments of Swedish wooden architecture from different regions of the country. In Poland, we call this an open-air ethnographic museum. We watch the history come to live in them and very often we can literally touch it. The first open-air museum in Poland was established in 1906 in Wdzydze Kiszewskie. It was founded by a couple of enthusiasts, Teodora and Izydor Gulgowski. Below we present selected open-air museums in the Małopolska region.

The Zalipie open-air museum

Zalipie is a village located in Powiśle Dąbrowskie. Although the village is unique in its kind, there are many others in the region, where the custom of painting houses and their interiors using original plant patterns has also been cultivated and developed for generations. This ornamentation was probably created at the end of the 18th century and was associated with the disappearance of thatched huts. Women painted stains on the smoke-stained walls with lime to brighten up and beautify the interiors of their houses. The painter Felicja Curyło (1904–1974) was the promoter of this unique folk art. Decorating houses with paintings had been known in this region before, but Mrs. Felicja made an art out of this practice. The artist's house was visited by many during her lifetime and over the years it has become the most important place for everyone interested in folk art. The object has been preserved in the same form as it was during the painter's lifetime. The outer walls of the buildings in the yard are covered with floral ornaments. The painted interior of the rooms is complemented by products made of coloured tissue paper: spiders, wedding rods and colourful bouquets. 

Another example of the Zalipie ornamentation of houses is the cottage of Stefania Łączyńska - built in 1886. It is the last existing example presenting the oldest traditional wall decorations in the entire Powiśle Dąbrowskie region. Her entire farm - unique in Europe - is an example of traditional folk ornamentation.

The Chata biedniacka (hut) - was built at the end of the 19th century on a rectangular plan. There are two entrances in the front wall (one leads to the chamber, the other to the hall). Inside, there is one chamber with a living room and a hall with a separate pigsty, a place for hens and a barn with one place for a cow, separated from the rest by a wooden log wall. This single chamber had to fulfil two functions: residential and economic. The stove and the space around it were the places where everyday life was concentrated. The rest was used for sleeping and entertaining guests. The equipment of the cottage was very modest and there were no floral paintings on the walls inside. The floor was made of clay pits throughout the building.

The Open-air museum in Sidzina - the Museum of Folk Culture 

Sidzina was founded in the 16th century as a royal settlement, protecting these lands from Wallachia, and its inhabitants were free people. The open-air museum is dominated by thatched huts with fireplaces, typical of the first half of the 19th century, a storage house, a forge, a belfry and a two-story granary. History of founding the open-air museum in Sidzina dates back to 1963. Two people contributed to the creation of this open-air museum. These people were Adam Leśniak, born in Sidzina, teacher, regionalist, lover of native culture and tradition, and the local parish priest - Father Józef Świstek, born in Maków Podhalański, passionate about Spisz, the Orawa and the vicinity of Babia Góra. The priest was passionate about collecting folk saints, glass paintings and other antique items, which he began to collect as the first exhibits in the  1950s. Then the first regional chamber was established in the Children's Holiday Home (Dom Wczasów Dziecięcych) in Sidzina, whose manager was Adam Leśniak. Outdated equipment and souvenirs from World War II have found their place in it. Thanks to them, , in 1963, an open-air museum was opened in Sidzina, on the Binkówka farm, as a celebration of the 400th anniversary of the establishment of the village of Sidzina. The open-air museum was established as a branch of the Orawa Ethnographic Park in Zubrzyca Górna And so it functioned until 2009, when it became an independent local government cultural institution, organized by the Bystra-Sidzina commune. At present, the open-air museum exhibits eight objects: the Banasik cottage, the Anna Kozioł's cottage (Truty), the storage house (granary), the forge (Trzopa, Gawrona), the Mayor's cottage (Kostkowioka), the Loreto belfry, the water mill and the farm cottage of Gałka from Bystra. An additional attraction of the open-air museum is an exhibition of outdoor sculptures that depict characters from legends and fairy tales from this area. Here you can see the devil appearing to wandering merchants in the forest called "Gojka"; drowned man pulling too curious virgins into the well; the “płanetnik” demon who ruled the clouds and rain; a witch who lived here centuries ago, or finally goddesses.

The Sądecki Ethnographic Park in Nowy Sącz

It is the largest open-air museum in the Małopolska region. The construction ot the Sądecki Ethnographic Park tarted in 1969 and the museum was opened to the public six years later. It presents wooden architecture and traditional folk culture of local ethnographic groups - Lachs, Pogórzans and highlanders from Nowy Sącz and ethnic groups: Lemkos, Galician Germans and Carpathian Gypsies. The open-air museum space has been divided into sectors corresponding to individual groups. On an area of approximately 21 ha, there are over 80 objects: single and multi-building peasant farms, farmstead windmills and blacksmiths, roadside crosses and chapels. The buildings of the peasants are dominated by three 18th-century churches: the Roman Catholic church from Łososina Dolna, the Greek Catholic church from Czarny and the Protestant one from Stadła. In one of the sectors, the buildings of the colony of German settlers from Gołkowice Dolne were reconstructed, and a small Gypsy settlement on the edge of the forest. In the central point of the rural buildings, a 17th-century noble manor house with a unique interior polychrome, transferred from Rdzawa, was situated. It is surrounded by a manor park with an access avenue and completed with an economic complex located in the vicinity. By the stream in the northern part of the open-air museum, a complex of traditional folk industry facilities powered by water (a sawmill, two mills, a fulling mill) was established. Almost all the objects in the Sądecki Ethnographic Park are original - they were dismantled in their mother village, moved, preserved and reassembled in the open-air museum. 

The Galician Town of Nowy Sącz

Next to the Sądecki Ethnographic Park  there is the Galician Town, j. It is a reconstruction of a fragment of small-town buildings. It includes a small market square and frontages with a dozen or so houses. This peculiar urban complex presents the atmosphere of small towns in the former province of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. The town hall occupies the western frontage of the square. The building with a slender tower and arcaded arcades is a replica of the unrealized seat of the authorities in Starosąd. The town hall serves as representative, conference and hotel functions. On the ground floor there is a reception desk, café and exhibition room; on the first floor there is a reading room and a spacious main hall. The top floor of the town hall is occupied by stylishly furnished guest rooms. There are two burgher houses adjacent to the town hall from Stary Sącz. One has a photo atelier and a watchmaker's workshop; in the other house there is a potter's workshop. The westernmost building is the manor house from Łososina Górna. The Classicist building is a reconstruction of the original, which was completely destroyed in the 1970s. On the ground floor there is a specialized library with a rich collection of books of the District Museum in Nowy Sącz. An inseparable element of the architecture of villages and small towns was - and still is - a fire station. In the reconstructed Town, you can see various equipment: carts, helmets, boat hooks, fire hoses and water jets. The houses at the market square include, among others, a souvenir shop and an antique shop, a workshop of a craftsman making wooden ornaments and toys, a dentist's shop, a retro-style pharmacy, a Jewish tailor's workshop, a pastry shop and a post office. A separate exhibition is dedicated to unprofessional sculptors and painters from Paszyn - a famous centre of folk art. The smell of cinnamon and coffee attracts people to the colonial shop, and in the barbershop you can see how the former barber worked. There is also an inn from Orawka near the Galician market, serving regional food. Numerous outdoor entertainment events, concerts and annual Christmas markets take place in the Galician Town. 

The open-air museum in Wygiełzów

The Nadwiślański Ethnographic Park in Wygiełzów is a regional open-air museum presenting the folk culture of villages and small towns inhabited by the ethnographic group of Western Cracovians. The construction of the open-air museum in Wygiełzów began in 1968. The choice of the place for the open-air museum was related to the restoration of the previously ruined Lipowiec Castle which was completed a year later. Monuments of folk architecture are gathered at the foot of the 13th-century castle of Kraków bishops. Western Cracovians are distinguished from other ethnographic groups by, among others, architecture and folk costumes. Currently, in the open-air museum with an area of over 5 hectares, there are 25 valuable monuments of wooden construction, not counting small architecture pieces. Among the picturesque terrain there are: a manor, peasant farms with orchards and flower gardens, objects related to rural craftsmanship, a church with a belfry, a small-town complex and other examples of Vistula architecture. The exhibited residential interiors are equipped with: old furniture, appliances, dishes, items of clothing, paintings and all items representing the rich tradition of the western part of the Małopolska region. In addition to the monuments of material culture, the interiors show the spiritual and social aspects of the village life, including rituals, magic, beliefs, folk medicine. The knowledge about the region's tradition is enriched by thematic ethnographic exhibitions devoted to rituals related to the period of Easter, Christmas or crafts characteristic for this area, i.e. pottery, weaving and wicker. For many years of operation, the open-air museum has managed to gather interesting collections, incl. folk costumes, ceramics, folk sculpture, oil prints and Kraków nativity scenes. Currently, one of the most impressive and characteristic buildings in the museum is the manor of Droginia from 1730.

Zubrzyca Górna Open-Air Museum - Orawa Ethnographic Park

Located at the foot of Babia Góra there is the open-air museum dating back to the 1930s. It was then that the descendants of the Moniak family, the village leader of the Orawa noble family, transferred to the State Treasury the remaining part of their patrimony - the land with the manor and farm buildings. They were Joanna Wilczków née Łaciaków and her brother, Aleksander Łaciak, who was already permanently living in Budapest. Their ancient manor estate in an irregular layout, with a small park surrounded by streams, overlooking Babia Góra, became the nucleus of today's open-air museum. It was created in the 1950s. The legacy of Orawa culture and history was collected here. With time, thanks to the determination of many people, it was possible to recreate the old Orawa village with its buildings, small architecture, rural industry plants and religious buildings, which is still developing and enriched with new elements. In addition to permanent exhibitions, the museum also organizes temporary exhibitions on various topics, as well as various events and meetings. The most important is the Blueberry Festival - the largest cyclical outdoor folklore event, traditionally held in the open-air museum on the last Sunday of July.

The open-air museum of Zagroda Sołtysów, Museum of Folk Culture of Spisz. Jurgów

The farm of the Sołtys family was built in 1861, founded by Jakub Sołtys, the landlord from Jurgów. The owners of the farm were successively the male heirs of the Sołtys family: Jakub, Maciej, Szymon and Jakub Sołtys. Jakub Sołtys, born on June 20, 1918, lived in the farm until 1942, and then bought a new house in another part of the village. Jakub's extended family lived on the farm. In the years 1982-1985 a comprehensive renovation of the farm was carried out, the farm then became the Spisz Folk Culture Museum - a branch of the Tatra Museum in Zakopane. The farm is situated in the central part of the village. It consists of a residential part and farm buildings. The residential part includes a hall, a room and a chamber. The chamber, i.e. the central part of the farm, was a place where the residents slept, cooked, spend leisure time and entertained received. The farm buildings include: a woodshed, a sheepfold, a playground where threshing was done and a stable. The farm was equipped with all the necessary equipment used on a peasant farm at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries.

The open-air museum of Pogórzańska village - Szymbark

The open-air museum is located in the centre of the village, in the manor area that used to be a part of the former Castle property. On an area of approximately 2 hectares, there are 16 historic buildings presenting rural architecture typical of the Gorlice Foothills. In the vicinity of the open-air museum there are also manor brick buildings - a Renaissance manor house from the 16th century, a manor house (around the 18th century) and a wooden burgher's manor house from the beginning of the 20th century, moved from Gorlice. Mainly single objects, transferred from larger complexes, are exhibited here. There is, among other things, a complete one-building homestead (the Siar thatched hut). Two of the four cottages located in the open-air museum (from Siary and Moszczenica) are fully equipped with old furniture, dishes and tools related to a traditional household. The Siary thatched hut is an example of a single-building biedniacka hut. It was inhabited until the 1970s. Next to residential buildings, facilities that used to function as service workshops are located. You can visit here: smithies, grain milling mills, oil mills and a kiln for firing dishes. The weaver's cottage, incorporated into the trail of rural technology, is at the same time the home and workplace of the craftsman. There are also farm buildings in the open-air museum: barns, a cowshed, and a parsonage. The open-air museum presents permanent exhibitions: "Herbs in the tradition of the Pogórze", "Staff of the Gorlice Operation 1915" "Historic vehicles and agricultural machinery", "Every day and on holidays - traditional Pogórze attire".


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