A tale of two museums

by

The crisp morning air in Warsaw tempted me with some sight seeing. I hadn’t seen much of Warsaw in the past 6 years, and with clear blue skies and bright sunlight it was a nice day to be out and about.

 

Emerging from the early morning mist, Stalin’s ‘gift’ to Warsaw, the Palace of Culture. Photo John Savery.

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I had never visited the Warsaw Uprising Museum (Muzeum Powstania Warszawskiego) so it was time to pay a visit. Situated a short distance up ul. Towarowa from the Warsaw Railway Museum, the museum is easy to find and to get to. The tram stop is just nearby, taking its title from the museum.

Arriving, it was clear it is popular with school visits. Purchasing a ticket from the kasa (ticket office) was easy enough, and armed with the souvenir I made my way across the courtyard to the entrance. With an attended cloakroom, I thought it would be easy enough to leave my small case (hand baggage sized) in the cloakroom, alas, this proved not to be the case and I was asked to leave it in the left luggage office opposite. Somewhat disconcerted I left the case as directed, surrounded by arriving tourists!

Once in the museum proper, it was clear why it was so popular. Aside from being a fitting tribute to those that fought for Warsaw in 1944, it is informative with plenty of exhibits and that all important human touch with life stories from people caught in the conflict. With dual translations in places, it was easy to understand.  My only regret is that the was a long queue for the City of Ruins cinema showings so I didn’t get chance to view the film. Walking around it was easy to become immersed in the story finishing up outside at the wall of remembrance.

The Wall of Remembrance at the Warsaw Uprising Museum. Photo John Savery.

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Leaving the museum I headed back down ul. Towarowa and called in to the Railway Museum (Muzeum Kolejnictwa w Warszawie) on the way back to Warszawa Centralna station. What a contrast! Walking up to the museum, with the outside door closed it was not clear if it was open or not. On entering, there was a lady stood behind a desk and in an adjacent room a man behind what looked liked a ticket sales window (although my Polish told me it wasn’t).

On asking for a ticket I was sent back to the lady in the adjacent room, who then directed me to and automatic vending machine. Inserting the correct change gave me a flimsy bit of paper more reminiscent of a parking ticket than the entrance to a museum. A complete contrast to my experience a few hours earlier.

A nice and shiny ticket machine at the Warsaw Railway Museum. Photo John Savery.

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With the relevant piece of paper safely in my wallet I ventured inside only to be immediately stopped and asked for my ticket! It would seem that MK regard jobs for the boys (and girls) as more important than looking after its guests and exhibits. The dilapidated state of the locomotives stored outside is abysmal, and exposed to the weather they are quietly rusting away.

Some renovation (painting) of exhibits is going on but it is a drop in the ocean to what is needed. Internally little seems to have changed since I last visited the museum in 2006. The internal displays are still dominated by models and there is little in the way of telling a story. The small section on the history of railways had two very familiar sections of Cuneo prints, neither of which credited the great artist.

Ty42-120 on display.  The outdoor storage and display of the locomotives does little to stop the weather attacking the metal and paintwork. Photo John Savery.

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SD80 railcar.  The railcar was intact on arrival at the museum, however as it was stored outside of the museum’s compound, it was left at the mercy of vandals and thieves.  Little more than a shell remains.  (The bogies are out of shot of the camera.) Photo John Savery.

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I left the museum disappointed. Not because it did not live up to expectations. The disappointment was because the Uprising Museum proved it is possible to have an excellent museum and draw visitors in, on a weekday, in the middle of a capital city. If the Railway Museum’s management team want to run a successful museum, they could do far worse than visiting their neighbour a few hundred metres up the road.

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3 Responses to “A tale of two museums”

  1. Gavin Whitelaw Says:

    I suspect that the Railway museum IS jobs for the boys! and that they could do so much better than they actually do but how much money has been spent on the Uprising museum?

    I was last at the Railway museum about 20 years ago and it was dire then – nothing much has changed, yet apparently they want the Pacific that is at Wolsztyn (and now out of ticket) back to rust away like the other locomotives!

  2. Alexander Says:

    About the railway museum. The problem, as with the whole of PKP is money. The ticket prices are very, very low compared to Holland.
    An other problem for the MK is everybody wants the property in downtown Warsaw. Next year they will probably get evicted.
    But till now I have met peopple from all over Europe there.

    Best regards,
    Alexander

  3. Ariel Ciechański Says:

    At Alexander – salaries in Poland are lover than in Holland…

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