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History Department

Iconography, militaria, faleristics

The collections of the History Department are interdisciplinary. The artefacts related to the iconography of Bydgoszcz and the area around it make up its most significant group. The department is divided into works of art and photographs. The former include paintings in oils, watercolours and graphics. By and large, their artistic value is rather low, yet their worth lies in the content. They relate to the city or its fragments and the city’s prominent citizens. Both the oil paintings and the aquarelles are works of local artists such as Paul Berthold Jaekel – a draughtsman, painter and lithographer, or August Wolff – a theatre painter. Three family portraits were the work of Julius Greth, the descendant of a family of master builders that settled in Bydgoszcz in the late 1700's. The fragments of the city’s buildings are best depicted in the graphics made, among others, in the studios of Berlin. The best-known is the view of Bydgoszcz by Eryk J. Dahlberg from 1657.

Photographs make a significantly larger group, as their numbers count in thousands. Their origin spans over the period from 1860 to the 1990's. Initially, for 60 years they were entirely a work of professional photographers. However, in the course of the development and the dissemination of photography, the collection was supplemented with amateur photographs. The most valuable is the collection of 170 pictures depicting Bydgoszcz of the 19th c., the authorship of which is attributed to Theodor Joop, Rudolf Bradengeier, Rudolf Shreiber and Lorenz Basilius. The image they created was that of a developing city. The photographs captured newly built structures and the citizens’ most favoured spots. On the account of the localization of the city of Bydgoszcz a special attention was focused on the river Brda and the Bydgoszcz Canal. Not only was the canal a transport route, but its banks also provided a place for recreation, leisure and relaxation for citizens. Furthermore, the collection encompasses a considerable amount of photos taken in the city’s studios that depict anonymous inhabitants of Bydgoszcz. In the case of the latter, a great value is attributed to the ornamented cardboard onto which the photos were glued.

Another significant group of photos is comprised of around 400 pieces that come from “Th. Joop” company ran by Paul Nawrotzki and Emil Wehram. The photos show the city of the first two decades of the 20th c. and they make a unique documentary presenting Bydgoszcz of the early 1900's, before and during the World War One. What is noteworthy, the authors’ focus was not entirely on the architecture, but also on the people, the staff of companies and public institutions in particular. In the interwar period, their work was continued by Tytus Piechocki, Witalis Wojucki and Piotr Wiszniewski. While the former two worked in their studios and as contracted photographers, Wiszniewski was engaged in fieldwork. Hence, the line of urban photos in the collection, some of which gave initial design for postcards, which are part of the collection. The very same period yielded plenty of photographs, chiefly amateur, depicting the life in the military units and barracks in Bydgoszcz.

An artifact of special importance comes from the early period of the Nazi occupation – the so-called Alvensleben’s Album. Commissioned by SS-Oberfuhrer Ludolf von Alvensleben, the commanding officer of Selbstschutz in the Administration of Danzig-West Prussia, the album contains a photo documentary of the operations his organization undertook in the first months of World War Two. It is from this album that the photos of Bydgoszcz’s teachers just before being executed by the firing squad in Fordon’s “Valley of Death” were taken. The very same period brought photos of the civilians temporarily detained in internment camps. Another interesting wartime set of photos comes from the collection of German photojournalists. The photographs were included in the series titled “A photojournalist in action”.

Yet another fascinating group of photos were taken by “Czołówka” Film Studio when Bydgoszcz was being liberated in 1945. After the war, Piotr Wiszniowski resumed his work as a photographer and captured the city’s war damage and its slow rebirth. Two more noteworthy albums record the photo documentary of the Pomeranian Exhibition of Industry, Craft and Commerce held in 1946 to celebrate the sexcentennial of Bydgoszcz, and the documentary of the building of a new theatre.

Another group from the collection is occupied by militaria which consist of uniforms, combat equipment and weaponry, including firearms, chiefly from the 19th and 20th c.

In the uniform section, two Russian uniform jackets of a cavalryman and a dragoon from the turn of the 19th and 20th c. stand out as the oldest items. The dragoon jacket is complemented by a leather helmet with crosswise white horsehair. Two white German jackets from the collection date back to the similar period and a truly fascinating rarity is a Russian military greatcoat from the period of World War One. The next group in the collection is comprised of garrison coats, both officer’s and noncommissioned officer’s, worn by the soldiers from regiments stationing in Bydgoszcz in the years 1920-1939. A minor part of the collection is devoted to uniforms worn by the Polish Armed Forces in the West and Polish First and Second Armies. The latter notably includes a woman’s uniform.

In the late 1960's and early 1970's, by the decision of military authorities, the museum was presented with a wide collection of People’s Army of Poland uniforms, both garrison and field uniforms, of all three military types: ground forces, air forces and the navy. This extraordinary donation consisted, apart from the uniforms, from various headgear, belts, boots,

shirts, ties and even underwear.

The next group of the militaria is comprised of combat equipment from the 19th and 20th c. that was in use in Poland, Russia, and Germany. The group also includes helmets. The largest set is that of German helmets which range from spiked helmets worn by German soldiers as they set off to fight in World War One, through steel helmets of 1916, to the helmets worn by Wehrmacht and the auxiliary units. As a curiosity, it is worth mentioning an elastic steel pad installed in the helmets of Luftwaffe pilots (Fliegerstahlhelm SSK 90), as introduced in the later period of the war. Among the Russian Army helmets were a French “Adrian” manufactured in the Czarist Russia, and a helmet of Finnish making. Soldiers’ personal equipment exemplified backpacks, haversacks, pouches, mess tins and canteens. Those of Russian origin, similarly to weaponry, were collected from the battlefield and donated to the museum by the citizens of Bydgoszcz who fought on the German side in the battle of Tannenberg in 1914. Some of the special equipment features two brands of Russian wire cutters and signaling flags. The donation made by the authorities of Air Forces includes the 1960's pilots’ equipment such as flying suits, helmets, flying goggles, navigational instruments, a parachute and a lifeboat.

The weaponry in the collection of the Department of History encompasses firearms and hand weapons. The origin of the latter is largely European: Polish, German, Russian, French with sparse items from England, Italy, Austria or, as a sheer curiosity, a few items of African origin. They were items in the collection of the Historical Society for the Netze District which were later donated by the citizens of Bydgoszcz who worked in German colonies in Africa. The oldest item is the 17th c. German executioner’s sword. A considerable abrasion of the blade proves it had been repeatedly sharpened and thus utilized in accord with its intended use. The origin of French sabres and broadswords dates back to early 1800's, whereas those of Russian and German making originated in late 1800's and early 1900's. Polish weaponry comes solely from the 20th c. The museum can boast of a unique pre-prototype sabre from 1934 which is known to be the only such model in Poland.

Bayonets make a yet another significant group of weapons. They mostly originate in the neighbouring countries and their use dates back to late 1800's and early 1900's. The display has also been enriched with several items from Japan which include a “Gusoku” armour, “hoshi kabuto” “suji kabuto” and “mononari no kabuto” helmets, the latter having been converted from a European morion, “naginata” and “suyari” spears along with two swords.

The firearms in the collections of the Department of History can be classified into hunting rifles, sports rifles and military rifles. The oldest of items date back to late 1500's and early 1600's, whereas the most recent come from 1950's. The vast majority of the rifles are of German and Russian making, yet individual items come from other European countries, the USA, and one from Northern Africa. It is a richly ornamented Kabyle flintlock.

The group of hunting rifles is comprised of shotguns and double-barreled shotguns made in Germany, Belgium and France in the 19th and 20th c. The models displayed are based on both firing pin and percussion cap. On account of their ornamented exterior, some rifles may be considered as collector’s items. The sports rifles in the collection are pistols, small caliber rifles and two air guns from the first two decades of the 20th c. The weapons predominantly originate from Germany. Two rifles that are currently used by the Bydgoszcz Rifle Brotherhood should also be placed under the said category. The items in question are a heavy flintlock hunting rifle of the 18th c. and a Haenel Original Aydt heavy target rifle from the late 1800's.

The most imposing set in the group is constituted by military weapons of different sizes and kinds: long and short, flintlock, percussion cap, needle, repeating and self-loading weapons. The set that has been gathered in the museum reflects the history of development and designer tendencies in the construction of firearms in Europe. The largest collection of rifles dates back to the late 1800's and early 1900's. In the case of German weapons, the cycle is initiated with the first Prussian needle rifle designed by Johann N. Dreyse, then continues with Mauser constructions, only to be topped with MP 40 machine gun constructed by Heinrich Vollmer. From the selection of French rifles, Chassepot, Tabatiere and Berthier stand out as the most worthy of our attention. The Russian and Soviet selection begins with a Mosin rifle from 1891 with its further modifications – a sniper rifle from 1930 and a 1944 model with a folding bayonet. By courtesy of the Department of Defence, the museum is proud to display an almost entirely complete collection of Soviet weapons used by the Red Army and the Polish Army. The AK 47 rifles originate from the post-war period. Short weapons are represented by pistols and revolvers. The earliest date back to the 18th c. and are equipped with flintlocks. The percussion cap pistols date back to early 19th c. and the majority originated in France and Germany. The 20th c. is represented by several items of automatic needle rifles. The revolvers date to the late 1800's and the oldest item in this category is an American Colt Navy from 1851.

The next group of objects in the collections of the Department of History are items classified as faleristics. They include decorations, distinctions, medals, badges and buttons. The collection has been grouped as follows: Foreign items, including a German Rifle Brotherhood, Rifle Brotherhoods from Greater Poland and Southern Pomerania, Polish decorations and distinctions, Badges and buttons, The Polish Army, Award medals, holy medals, miscellanea. Chronologically, the collection spans over the period from the late 18th to late 20th and early 21st c.

The items are predominantly of German origin. They include state and military decorations from both world wars, as well as medals which commemorate momentous events. 19th c. Russian decorations of St. Stanislaus and St. Anna deserve our special attention. A collection of medals and badges from Shooting Societies numbers nearly 200 items. The oldest royal medal of Bydgoszcz dates to 1817. A certain number of the items on display had been made from other commemorative medals or coins, such as the silver American dollar of 1850. Such items were marked with additional inscriptions. Several of the commemorative badges were commissioned by Shooting Societies of Greater Poland from goldsmiths of Bydgoszcz. Polish decorations and distinctions date to the period of the Second Polish Republic, World War II, and the post-war period up to the 1990's. The 19th c. Virtuti Millitari decorations stand out as exceptions. The decorations of the interwar period present in the collection are both state and military. During the war the government in exile awarded decorations that had been established before the war. In the majority of cases they were awarded in recognition of valour in combat. After the war a new system of awarding decorations was drawn up which stipulated the introduction of 5 decorations and 14 distinctions. The new system was altogether different from the one used before the war and which was still being used by the government in exile. The orders and decorations in the collection were awarded according to the system which had been in operation only to be later supplemented by the items from the amended system. The latter include: The Decoration of Merit of People’s Republic of Poland, the Warsaw Cross of the Uprising, the Home Army Cross, the Auschwitz Cross or Medal of the War of 1939.

Another group in the collection is occupied by badges and buttons. The collection of badges includes a number of honorary and distinctive badges which were conferred by various departments, whereas the buttons are organizational symbols or commemorate momentous events. A large group of items is linked to the Polish Army. The years 1920-1939 gave origin to about 200 commemorative badges from army regiments and other units, military schools and training centres. A special effort was made to collect the badges of units stationing in Bydgoszcz, which made a considerable garrison. The museum can boast of the badges and their modifications. In a similar manner, the commemorative badges of units and tactical groups functioning within the Polish Armed Forces in the West have been collected. The majority of the badges issued by the Polish Army after 1945 are commemorative badges of military schools, starting with the earliest items issued from 1947 until the last of the series after the schools were converted into colleges. The collection is nearly complete. The distinctive badges include those that confer soldiers of various specialties the “Exemplary” title, or define the grades within their performed functions. Furthermore, a number of badges with emblems of personal corps, weapons and duties were gathered. Coats of arms worn on headgear made with various artistic techniques and of various materials have also been placed in the collection.

The last group consists of award medals won in sports competitions of both civilian and military nature. Most of these awards were won by the sportsmen of Bydgoszcz in competitions organised nationwide.

Arts and crafts products

We enter the world of everyday use objects of the past with the examples of guild, artistic and material culture products, constituting a separate collection of historic items in the Department of History. The collection, though not very abundant, is a reflection of changes taking place in the craftsmanship, as well as a general picture of development of various fields of production of past centuries. Just like many similar collections, this one hides the real “treasures”, not always fully revealed, and, though presented at certain temporary exhibitions, still worth being reminded of. Those items, with reverence kept over the centuries until our times, still evoke interest, admiration, or even respect for their makers or clients that they were intended for. The collections have been dominated by the products of the 19th and 20th c., although it is also possible to encounter objects of a much earlier origin, produced in the 16th, 17th or 18th c. The typical and greatly popular group of objects of everyday use and decorations is accompanied with more valuable items of an exceptionally high artistic or even historical value, providing the evidence of the outstanding skills of their makers or the aesthetic inclinations of our ancestors. The amateurs and collectors of artistic items surely will find here objects worth their attention. Thus, let us pass on to discussing the most interesting examples of ceramic, glass and metal products, as well as furniture, clocks or fabrics.

An unquestionable ornament of the collection is a majolica plate presenting the scene of The original sin, a product of the Domenego da Venezia workshop in Wenecja, made between 1565-1570. It was made in one of the Italian centres famous in Europe for its production of majolica, also in “istoriato” style (illustrating “stories”), next to such remarkable centres as Urbino, Faenza or Deruta, assembling ceramists creating luxury dishes with colourful paintings covering their entire surfaces. The original sin theme and the tale of the God’s meeting with Adam and Eve belonged to the most popular tales and presentations of renaissance art. In the ceramic collection we find mostly European, and rarely Polish, examples of objects of different product categories – faience, stoneware and porcelain, from the last three centuries. Next to tiled stoves, faience tiles and figural arts, the main items are the dishes of the German and Polish provenance. What should be mentioned, are the sought-after and still valued products of the leading German plant − The Royal Porcelain Workshop in Meißen, and the remains of services produced in the oldest Polish factories set up on the Polish eastern frontier – in Korzec and Baranówka. Porcelain dishes made from the formerly valued “white gold” are usually decorated with varied floral patterns, the most popular type of decoration from over two hundred years or so ago. The assembled goods from Meißen, reflecting the relation to the developing fashion for the exotic drinks – coffee and tea, present oriental motives, adopted from Far-Eastern art, widely admired in Europe in the 18th c. A quite different type of decorative art – the Empire style with gilt ornaments, was introduced on a plate from Korzec, an element of a costly, extended service owned by  Konstancja Razdiwiłł, from ca. 1829, one of the best and most recognizable services of this leading Polish factory.

Within a rather small collection of glass items, we should note the presence of works of artists from the Czech Republic, Germany, Silesia and Poland from the 18th -20th c. What is distinguishable among the group of dishes from the 19th c. are the examples of glass tableware – glasses, goblets and wineglasses, capturing the eye with their production styles and decorations, characteristic for their sizes and forms, but also for the high quality workmanship and the used raw material. These are the works of the hands of many unknown craftsmen, working for glassworks of long-lived traditions.

The remaining dishes of everyday use or those serving decorative purposes, arouse interest due to the variety of techniques used in their production and their ornamentation typical of former glass manufacture. We can not forget about the collection of founder products from the 17th -20th c., assembling everyday use objects coming from workshops and plants mainly functioning in German centres, but also in Poland, Austria and England. Certainly, the item of the greatest value is a plate from the Brotherhood of St. Anna, from the end of the 16th c. of the Bernardine convent in Bydgoszcz. The plate, presenting the scene titled Lot feasting with his daughters was cast from tin by an inhabitant of Toruń, Jacob Weant (Wendt) at the turn of the 17th and 18th c., from a mould made by another craftsman – Jeremias Mentzl. Its rare occurrence in Polish collections is due to the short-lived, episodic use of relief figural decorations on our lands (only in the Toruń workshop), in this case devoted to the theme taken from the Old Testament, remaining under the overwhelming influence of the works by Nuremberg founders. What is also worth mentioning is a set of guild dishes from workshops in Gdańsk, Toruń and Królewiec, constituting the heritage of the Bydgoszcz crafts corporations. A particular attention should be drawn to a wilcom of stove fitters and potters from 1856, a work of a Bydgoszcz citizen, Ferdinand Gottlieb Schwanke, accompanied by other dishes from the 18th and 19th c., used in the past by guild members. The collections of metal objects are broadened with the products of masters of other specialties – blacksmiths, locksmiths, bell founders and coppersmiths from the period between the 14th -20th c.

In the small collection of European and Polish silver products from the last two centuries, the leading works are those by an outstanding 19th c. artist from Warsaw, Karol Filip Malcz, as well as a traveller’s toilet kit comprised of items made from silver and crystal glass. The majority of elements included in this kit intended for ladies, indispensable not only during voyages, was made by Vienna goldsmiths working in the mid. 19th c., but it is also possible to come across earlier items from workshops from Warsaw, Dresden and Lvov from the second half of the 18th, and the first half of the 19th c. An interesting piece of a significant artistic value is another 19th c. luxurious Parisian sawing kit made from gold, steel and colour glaze.

It is still unknown who was the author of the next valuable and unique object, this time related to Bydgoszcz. The object is a cock forged in silver from the end of the 16th c., a valuable jewel of the local Rifle Brotherhood (former Bowman Brotherhood), very active in the past, classified as an element of a narrow group of royal insignia of this rank that managed to be saved in Poland. The cock (eagle) – an emblem of patrician fellowships, was an honourable award (transitive) for the best shooter – champion shot – in an annual shooting contest. Its maker, a goldsmith from the then unrecognized Bydgoszcz environment, chose a traditional convention, presenting the silhouette of a bird of prey with a crown standing on a branch.

Another collection that should be mentioned is the collection of the so-called ‘bydgostians’ – items of multiple functions and diversified character, also being craft products that are related by one aspect – their place of origin – the town on the Brda river. It is impossible to undere timate their significant role in shaping of the image of the city and its past inhabitants. They remind of the old traditions, buildings, customs, events, people and their everyday lives and work. Particularly interesting is a unique gothic trowel from the mid. 14th c. used at the castle construction, a seat of the Bydgoszcz governors, found in the course of demolition works conducted on that stronghold. Within another group of items, the “antiques” in the collections of the Historical Society for the Netze District, we encounter products of local blacksmiths and locksmiths – a number of keys and padlocks from medieval and modern times, and roof flags – weather vanes from the 17th and 18th c. Another item that is worth drawing attention to, is a late renaissance mortar cast from bronze, probably in a workshop of a Gdańsk bell founder in 1590, constituting a part of the equipment of a pharmacy located at the Old Town Square, ran by Aleksy Warryasowicz (Varryasowicz), a pharmacist and a town councillor. What is particularly interesting, is a group of town insignia and goldsmith’s works. An item produced by Bydgoszcz craftsmen is the oldest preserved town stamp from 1564, enriched with a silver handle made later, in 1640, thanks to the invention and funding of the mayor, Wojciech Łochowski. An Evangelical community active in the town in the past, left a solid trace in the form of two 19th c. dishes – a chalice produced in a workshop in Berlin in 1815, and a baptismal font made in 1878 for the church of St. Paul rendered available to the community. The so-called Emperor’s chalice from 1904, on the other hand, the work of a Bydgoszcz goldsmith and jeweler, Richard Ménarda, reminds us of the celebrations related to thevisit of the German emperor, Wilhelm II, in the town on the Brda river.

The museum also takes pride in another historic item of high rank – an effective cabinet produced four hundred years ago, probably in Augsburg. It fascinates with its master workmanship and the sophisticated decoration in mannerist style – the extensive figural-architectural-floral compositions (Biblical scenes – mostly illustrating the life of Christ, personifications, and still life elements with musical instruments). This, once extremely useful, piece of furniture, placed within the category of luxurious goods, broadens the group of mannerist, intarsiated South German cabinets, poorly represented in European collections. The artistically arranged chest furniture, extremely fashionable in the 16th, 17th and 18th c., hid inside a number of drawers or compartments filled with equally valuable items, undoubtedly worthy of being placed there. It is worth mentioning, that two other pieces of that kind constituting a part of the collections, this time encrusted with ivory (figural and grotesque ornamental representations), evoke interest with the finesse and choice of decorative motives. Moreover, the objects that deserve closer attention are the items of, for instance, Gdańsk or Elbląg provenance, produced in excellent workshops, famous for the production of intarsiated or carved items. In Poland, intarsiated wardrobes are represented by a wardrobe from Elbląd from the turn of the 18th and 19th c., a bureau from the beg. of the 19th c, and a set of Gdańsk Chippendale rococo chairs from the third quarter of the 18th c. The latter owe their name to the inspiration found in English chairs with comfortably padded seats enriched with carved decorations.

The “ancient” furniture is accompanied with various types of historic clocks from the 17th -20th c. Besides some standing clocks and a sundial, it is possible to encounter fireplace, table, console, wall clocks and pocket watches. The most curious time measuring devices come from the 17th c. and include – wall clocks of framework construction, and a Dutch pendulum clock. The objects from later periods are the works of Austrian, Dutch, German, French and Swiss watchmakers. From the country mentioned at the last position, today believed to be the homeland of the watchmaker craft, we have silver pocket watches intended for men, made nearly a hundred years ago, and an item that is more than two hundred years old is an original pectoral watch – a miniature watch for a lady. In a small collection of fabrics, besides the items from the 19th and 20th is it possible to find some items from the earlier periods – kontusz sashes from silk, made at the end of the 18th c., mainly in Polish manufactures, for instance in the so-called ‘persjarnia’ of Paschalis Jakubowicz in Lipkowo, near Warsaw.

Finally, we have to mention decorative art products of the 20th c., a much younger group of items, constituting a part of the museum collections. Utility goods of this extremely abundant epoch constitute a significant complementation of the 20th c. collection of works of art. The collections comprised of items in the convention of Art Nouveau and art deco are complimented with the selected examples of products from the second half of the previous century reflecting the constantly changing trends and tendencies in arts. The collection of Art Nouveau handicraft is comprised of glass and ceramic objects, metals, furniture, as well as fabrics, clocks and lamps. The items come mainly from German and Polish metal works, from glassworks in France, the Czech Republic, as well as from Silesian ceramic factories. The items of particular value are glass items, filled with finesse and charm, produced in the European plants that were well-known a hundred years ago (e.g. Emile Gallé, Daum Fr�res, Johann Loetz-Witwe, Wilhelm Kralik Sohn). The recognized and sought-after colourful vases, epergnes or jardini�res surprise with the diversity of forms, innovative technologies, surfaces and decorations (etched motives, iridescence, encrustation). Among the items from the period of Poland’s twenty years of independence after World War One we should point out the examples of serial production with artistic traits – ceramic and glass dishes, metal objects and kilims of Polish, Czech and German provenance. Within the collection of everyday use and decorative objects from the second half of the 20th c., we mainly find ceramic products – Polish artists’ designs implemented in industrial production.

Arts and crafts products used to play an important role in the culture and perform numerous functions. They experienced various vicissitudes of life, as a result of which many of them were destroyed. Thus, it is important to appreciate the value of those objects that managed to be preserved.



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