exhibitions & events:
Ethnography Department of the Leon Wyczółkowski District Museum in Bydgoszcz was established in 1986. While creating its collection it was assumed that it should provide the broadest possible group of items presenting the most significant fields of traditional folk culture of the regions of Pałuki, Kuyavia, Kociewie, Tuchola Forests, Krajna and Kashubia, as well as document contemporary folk and naive art.
Obtaining of the items took place mainly during field explorations, as well as through purchasing works of art from contests and exhibitions held in the above mentioned regions, or directly from folk artists. Gradually, the particular domains of the collections were assuming their forms: objects belonging to the material stock of the country farms, clothing and fabrics, folk and unprofessional arts, ornamental goods and archives. At the same time, ethnographic documentation was being completed, covering in its scope issues concerned with material, spiritual and social culture, in the form of interview cards, text files on folk artists, bibliographic and photographic files.
The number of ethnographic items, mainly from the 19th and 20th c. reaches over 3000. The object of collective activity of the department is a broadly defined domain of material culture depicting everyday life, work in the field and farm of rural population. From the very beginning the focus was also placed on gathering the equipment and products of handicraft workshops.
Special attention should be drawn to the items related to smithery. The collection of appliances and tools constituting the furnishings of a forge includes: a set of tools for shoeing horses, vices, bellows, a set of hammers and pliers. A significant acquisition within this field is furnishing of a 19th c. forge from Dziedno in Krajna.
A numerous group of museum items is constituted by utility products made by blacksmiths, including: combs for linen, sickles, hammers, horseshoes, ploughshares. The great skills of blacksmith masters and the old ornamental tradition are confirmed with such artistic products as bars for granary windows or weather vanes.
A large group of craft products is constituted by tools for working wood – for carpentry, coopery, including a carpenter’s bench, planes, saws and vices. Besides workshop equipment, the collections consist of handicraft products, e.g. stave dishes, plunger and rotating butter churns, barrels. A very interesting device is a 19th c. pedal wood lathe equipped in a flywheel from a Ludwik Kozeka’s carpenter shop in Malice, near Kcynia.
One of the folk crafts that was extremely popular until as late as the beginning of the 20th c. is pottery. In the past, the demand for this kind of products, especially in rural areas, was significant. A slow decline of this craft began in the second half of the 20th c., the moment factory-made dishes were popularized in villages and small towns. Pottery is in many regions of Poland, e.g. in Kuyavia, a thing of the past, which makes the items documenting the existence of that important craft accompanying man since the dawn of time even more valuable. Kuyavian pottery in the Bydgoszcz ethnographic collections comes from such significant centres as: Lubień Kujawski – products of the Stępowscy family, Kowal – works of Hipolit Plichtowicz and Jerzy Mularski. An interesting acquisition is also the collection of a Kuyavian contemporary faience from the factory in Włocławek. Original Kashubian ceramics are represented by Franciszek and Ryszard Necel from a known workshop in Chmielno, operating since 1907 until today.
Plaited articles, mostly from the area of the Tuchola Forests, include not only baskets of different shapes and intended for various uses, made in a variety of techniques from roots, wicker and straw, but also corn and flour measures, bowls, trays, beehives, baskets for leaving bread dough to rise.
The department also has at its disposal devices for processing linen: spinning wheels, swingles, hackles, brushes, reeling machines, and saddler’s tools, such as: benches, vices and leather punches.
Among the objects used in the past for farming purposes we can enumerate wooden harrows, flails, winnowers, scythes, sickles, a harness and horse collars. Moreover, the collections include items linked to fishery – e.g. fishing nets, and to beekeeping – straw and wooden bee hives.
The items connected with food storage and processing include: querns, cabbage shredders, cheese presses, devices for making butter, strainers, clay and iron pots, as well as devices for kneading dough and baking bread, bowls, spatulas, spoons, a press for squeezing juice from fruit and vegetables.
Within the group of home appliances, what draws attention is the collection of devices used for cleaning purposes – various kinds of flat and coal irons, linen mangles, barrel washing machines, hand mangles in horizontal and vertical casings, etc.
The objects related to home interior mostly include furniture. The most effective historic items within this scope consist of polychromed 19th c. furniture from the regions of Kashubia, Kuyavia, Pałuki and Kociewie. A Kashubian chair from mid 19th c. is distinguished by the rich ornamentation, the shape of which reminds of a renaissance armchair. A one-door, hexagonal Kashubian wardrobe from 1871 from Lubnia, on the other hand, is an example of rich baroque decoration with a multitude of ornamental elements. The most important and the most representative piece of furniture in a peasant chamber is a painted dowry chest put in a place in which it would be easily noticeable. In the chest we would find clothing, some more valuable family property and a bride’s trousseau. These articles became objects of common use in rural areas in the 18th c. The collection of chests presents the richness of decorative arts as well as the diversity of the created compositions. A chest from the region of Kociewie dated at 1856 from Stara Rzeka, is decorated with red flowers put in fancy vases. Another example is a chest from Leśno, Kashubian region, from 1895, which is decorated with a pliant twig with tulip flowers, in a white basket with two handles. Three-field Kuyavian chests amaze with their colourfulness, flowery arcaded fields, decorative slats. What should also be pointed out are extendable beds, tables, trunks, shelves, a chest of drawers and a wardrobe from Pałuki with a curvy top.
In a rural house interior of the past, the attention to aesthetics wasm not only expressed in furniture and everyday use objects ornamentation, but also in rich decoration of chambers with artificial flowers, straw ornaments, fabrics and paintings.
The fullest collection is the collection of interior ornamentations from the region of Pałuki made from straw, tissue paper, crepe and dried herbs, such as: ceiling ornaments, garlands, birches, flower bouquets, painting frames, and paper cutouts for window and shelf decorations. Among ritual items, the Museum has at its disposal some aspergills and harvest decorations made from straw. Particularly interesting are the works of Jadwiga Bołka from Szubin and her group.
A significant part of the collection is constituted by fabrics, richly ornamented with embroidery, and contemporary reconstructions of festive regional clothing: from Pałuki and Kuyavia, as well as the so-called Kashubian common clothing. The ethnographic collection of the museum includes wonderfully embroidered parts of folk clothing: shirts, ruffs, red and white petticoats, as well as aprons, and particularly beautiful headgears for women: bonnets with bands from Pałuki, as well as some items from Kuyavia and Kashubia. The latter were made from velvet or silk, usually with plant motives (palmettes, tulips, pomegranate fruit, bellflowers, lilies, daisies) embroidered with metal threads in the colour of gold and silver. An example of such a product is the bonnet presented below, made in 1991 by Maria Fortuńska from Tuchola. At present, artists are adapting old embroidery patterns for products of contemporary use: tablecloths, tapestry and shawls. The fabrics were obtained mainly through purchases of contest products in Pałuki and Tuchola Forests. The collection of fabrics counting several dozen items consists of parts of women’s and men’s underwear from the beginning of the 20th c. from the region of Kociewie, and crochet laces – lace curtains and ornamentations of cupboard shelves.
A significant part of the collection is made up by articles of folk arts – sculptures, paintings, ritual items, musical instruments and decorative articles. What deserves special attention are sacral paintings from the end of the 19th c. made from plastic mass and dried herbs, as well as works on glass painted in contemporary patterns from the region of Kashuby.
The collections also include the works of Teofil Ociepka, the most famous Polish “naive” artist, next to Nikifor, who, at the end of his life became closely related with Bydgoszcz and is buried here. The artist’s original art providing the intended clarification of universal truths through the combination of various religious, magic, prophecies and dreams, is represented in the department with his five paintings. A particularly characteristic painting of Ociepka is the one titled “In the forest” presenting fantastic animals in a fairylike, primeval forest. By using the function reminding of a dream vision, the author draws the viewers’ attention to the world existing beyond conventional reality that he believed in.
The items from Pałuki include collections of sculptures of the most important folk artists: Stefan Boguszyński, Władysława Adryanowa, Piotr Woliński, Czesław Wętkowski and Teodor Kupś; from Kashubia: Józef Chełmowski; from Tuchola Forests: Zygmunt Kędzierski. The most significant Kuyavian artists are represented by: Jan Centkowski, Antoni Chynek, Feliks Maik, Karol Ziomko and Jan Durkiewicz. A very valuable collection is a set of clay figures by Klara Prillowa, an outstanding sculptor and a great animator of cultural life in Kcynia, from the second half of the 20th c. Another interesting group of items is a set of Nativity cr�ches, referring with their content to folk beliefs.
A separate group of objects are sculpted birds, once believed to have a symbolic meaning, and later used only as interior decorations: openwork peacocks by Józef Skawiński and a variety of colourfully painted birds of Eugeniusz Jędrzejczak, Teodor Kupś, Zygmunt Folega and Stanisław Rekowski.
The diversity, simplicity of forms, vivid colours and ably combined entertainment and educational functions make the collection of toys, mainly wooden ones, especially attractive. The collection includes such toys as: rocking horses, butterflies on wheels, chaises, miniature furniture, etc.
Archives comprise mainly of iconographic material, e.g. photographic documentation of folk artists, folkloric groups and events related to folk culture.
The development of the department is possible thanks to cooperation with many museum institutions and cultural organizations, including the Bydgoszcz-Toruń Division of Folk Artists Association. Artists belonging to this Association have taken part in numerous handicraft and folk art fairs that evoke great public interest.
The enlisted fields of activity of the Department of Ethnography mainly serve the purpose of popularizing the collections which, being the products providing evidence of changes in the culture taking place over a span of centuries, are not only a kind of a“heritage park” of unified and ahistorical objects, but constitute a live and permanent source of cultural identity, providing the sense of belonging and the awareness of local distinction.