The history of the museum

The Museum of Folk Musical Instruments in Szydłowiec was established in September 1968 as a branch of the Świętokrzyskie Museum in Kielce (later renamed the National Museum) by decision of the Ministry of Culture and Art and the authorities of the then Kielce Voivodeship. The Museum was located on the first floor of the eastern wing of the Castle in Szydłowiec and the Museum was entrusted to Danuta Słomińska-Paprocka. Between 1968 and 1975 the preparation stage was completed: field research was conducted, unique instruments at risk of disappearance were acquired and collected. The Museum opened to the public on 19 May 1975, presenting Polish musical instruments and folk bands as well as the musical instruments from the Kielce region at its first permanent exhibition. The Museum as a specialist institution, since 1976 operating independently, presented the current state of Polish folk instrumentation. Dr. Erich Stockman, the head of the study group aimed at researching folk musical instruments at the International Folk Music Council and the vice-president of this international organization, expressed the opinion that the Museum in Szydłowiec is the first independent museum in the world dedicated to folk musical instruments. Since 1978, in addition to the successive collection of musical instruments, the Museum has also begun to acquire artistic and historical exhibits, including written materials, iconography with musical motifs, documents, furniture and objects of everyday use. The exhibits include documents related to the activities of Szydłowiec guilds from the 16th to the 19th century, architectural details from the 16th and 17th centuries from the Szydłowiec castle, paintings by Władysław Aleksander Malecki, Teodor Axentowicz, Jacek Malczewski.

In 1999 the Museum was entered in the National Register of Museums. As part of the administrative division of the country, since 1 January 1999 the Museum has been under the administration of the Szydłowiec Poviat Starosty. From 1 January 2005 The Museum of Folk Musical Instruments in Szydłowiec was taken over by the local government of the Mazowieckie Voivodeship.

Since 2011, the Museum has been gradually developing a new formula and strategy. It actively participates in the cultural development of Poland by organizing temporary exhibitions, concerts, lectures, workshops, competitions for building folk musical instruments, as well as other educational activities.

After the revitalization of Castle in Szydłowiec, in 2015 the Museum implemented the project Instruments… — see and hear the tradition of modernizing exhibition and storage spaces. A new permanent exhibition was opened, which makes use of multimedia and is in line with modern exhibition standards. Located on the first floor of the eastern wing of the castle, prepared according to a new scenario, the exhibition is presented in three chambers. It shows traditional instruments in the lineups of characteristic Polish folk bands as well as instruments divided by their sound source into four groups: idiophones, membranophones, chordophones and aerophones. The exposition is complemented by music-themed images, photograms of drawings, graphics, archival photographs, multimedia and interactive tools. The permanent exhibition received an honorable mention in the most prestigious national competition “Sybilla” on the Museum Event of 2015  (orig. Wydarzenie Muzealne 2015 Roku) in the ethnographic exhibitions category.

Projects implemented in recent years have been appreciated by visitors and specialists alike. Exhibitions organized in the formula of interdisciplinary projects are in fact a combination of activities: preparation of the exhibition and the catalogue, series of accompanying events such as lectures, concerts, workshops. In the years 2012–2018 the Museum has received ten awards, including in national competitions. The jury of the “Mazowieckie Zdarzenia Muzealne – Wierzba” (Eng. Mazovian Museum Events) competition distinguished and rewarded many more proposals: temporary exhibitions such as Bagpipes, an extraordinary musical instrument (2012) and Squeezeboxes — the whole world plays (2013), a series of artistic, scientific and educational events entitled Woman with a harp — around the secret aura of the painting (2015) related to the promotion of the painting J.P. Bredt acquired for the Museum’s collection, entitled  Portret kobiety w czarnej sukni (Eng. Portrait of a Woman in a Black Gown), exhibition entitled See the Music of the Source. Music and folk musical instruments in Polish painting, presenting paintings by leading 19th and 20th century painters, whose main motif was musical scenes and folk musical instruments. In 2016, after an eleven-year break, the Museum organized the 5th National Folk Musical Instruments Building Competition, for which it was awarded 1st place in the competition for the “Mazowieckie Zdarzenia Muzealne – Wierzba” (Eng. Mazovian Museum Events) in the category “Open Project”.  As part of the competition, a temporary exhibition “Workshop, matter, sound” was organized, where the instruments submitted for the competition were presented, the “Catalogue of Artists of the 5th National Folk Musical Instruments Building Competition” was published, and ceramic whistle building workshops for children were held as well. Other significant events include the temporary exhibition Folk “Stradivariuses” , organized in 2017, which showed the craftsmanship of the Polish folk luthiers and which was awarded second place in the “Wierzba” competition in 2018. In 2018, on the occasion of the Museum’s 50th anniversary, exhibition entitled The Sobieskis — preserved in sounds  was organized. The exhibition, under the honorary patronage of the Minister of Culture and National Heritage and the Marshal of the Mazowieckie Voivodeship, is devoted to Jadwiga (née Pietruszyński) and Marian Sobieski — outstanding ethnomusicologists who have significantly contributed to the study, collection and popularization of musical folklore in Poland. It is accompanied by a richly illustrated publication, featuring a double disk album of folk music recordings made by Jadwiga and Marian Sobieski and their collaborators. A number of cultural and educational events are also planned to be held during the exhibition.

In the year-long programme of the Museum, the supporters of the Museum expect interesting New Year’s concerts and events connected with the international Night of Museums event. In turn, lectures and meetings with eminent specialists in the fields of ethnomusicology, history of art and culture allow participants to acquire invaluable knowledge, and arouse great interest especially among young people and students of the University of the Third Age. As a strategic partner, the Museum has also joined the creation of the Polish Folk Musical Instruments web portal (www.instrumenty.edu.pl), presenting some specimens from its collection.

In 2018 the Museum marked its 50th anniversary finalizing the construction of its new premises, intended for the substantive laboratories, administration offices and storage rooms for Museum’s exhibits. The implementation of this largest investment in the history of the institution will allow to expand the exhibition area of the Museum in the Szydłowiecki and Radziwiłł Castle almost three times (about 520 m²). The renovated rooms will be used for displaying valuable musical instruments, which, due to the lack of exhibition space, have so far been kept in storage. In the coming years the chambers decorated with coffered ceilings are planned to hold an exhibition dedicated to the history of the castle and patronage of the Szydłowiecki family.

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