Exhibition of antiquities in 1858


in Krakow

In 1858 an exhibition was organized in Krakow, todays Poland, which was probably the biggest display of historical objects in the history of Polish museology.

In 1858 Poland was still partitioned between three empires: Austria, Russia and Prussia. In Krakow, which was falling economically and prestigiously from its former glory, the memory of old and powerful kingdom and Polish language were still much alive. Having an example from Warsaw experience of 1856, Krakow’s Scientific Society decided to give a proclamation calling on the public to arrange a great exhibition devoted to Polish history and its lands. In Warsaw the same idea resulted in great exhibition of over 1000 historical objects, therefore Krakow organizers wanted to replicated the same success.

After few weeks of preparations the exhibition was opened in a private city house of prince Lubomirski, occupying few of its rooms, but the amount of objects that were still coming and coming forced organizers to take the entire building just few months after the opening. The number of objects has been calculated at over 1500. This alive and constantly changing exhibition, showed great amount of archaeological foundings, art of Polish craftsman and also a number of old arms and armour.

The catalogue was never printed which is a great shame and certain loss for our knowlegde. Even if the description of the objects were mostly based on family traditions, closer to romantic view of the history than to scientific approach, we could still find more about some of the pieces that are now in museum collections.

Nevertheless, Karol Beyer, Warsaw photographer, came to Krakow and made several pictures which were printed in album showing the highlights of the Krakow exhibition and giving us some idea of how it looked like.

The whole book made by Karol Beyer  you can download from here:

Below you can selection of military objects, with translation of original captions. Please remember that dating or naming the object in 1858 was very often biased by legends and family traditions. Therefore some “pre Christian” archaeological findings could be medieval in fact, some 16th sabres could be much later, and so on…


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