Exhibits of European Solidarity Centre
This collection expresses the artistic tendencies in the last decades of Polish reality under socialist regime. It includes a huge number of graphics, posters, paintings and drawings, as well as some items produced by opposition members held under detention.
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Name of collection
- Museum Items of the European Solidarity Centre
Provenance and cultural activities
Historic objects gathered by the European Solidarity Centre make a rich and diversified collection that comprehensively documents the artistic way of expressing discontent with the socialist regime during the last decades of its dominance.
The collection concerns the period between 1970-1989 and is focused mostly on the events that took place on the Polish coast, mainly in Gdansk and Gdynia. The thematic scope includes democratic opposition, underground actions, repressions and counter-culture. Most objects are related to the beginnings of the Solidarity movement and its underground activities.
European Solidarity Centre has been gathering the historic items since 2008. Vast majority of objects was given into repository or donated to the institution by private owners and collectors, who had not presented them before. As a result, the collection does not have one defined narrative – it rather tries to transmit the unique history of every object to the wider audience and preserve the memory of people involved in democratic movement. Most of the items were not intended by their creators and owners to be exposed in the museums or be treated like exhibits. For many years they were kept in the safe spaces of private houses. Owning them was illegal or risky. It was yet when this collection was launched that many objects were recognized to had played an important role in great historical changes. This is why European Solidarity Centre's collection contains not only artistic items and underground publications, but also some extraordinary items from everyday life, like the sweater which Lech Walesa was wearing when he signed the August Agreements.
Some of the objects are exposed in the public exhibition in the museum area, but many items are kept in the archive or showed during temporary exhibitions. The collection is popular with both Polish and international tourists, researchers, students and journalists. It serves as a comprehensive set of materials for scientific elaboration. It also serves as a source for various social, cultural and political projects (film productions, international exhibitions, educational shows).
Description of content
European Solidarity Centre gathered a comprehensive and vast collection of items, which amount to over 5.000 objects and 150 current meters of documents.
The artistic objects of this collection are diversified in their type. They include visual manifestations such as drawings, posters, stamps, graphics, paintings, flags, stickers, badges, etc. They express the artistic manner and social distress of the 1970s and 1980s. Moreover, there are many exhibits showing international endorsement for Polish democratic movement and Solidarity itself, mainly from Norway, France, Great Britain, Germany and Sweden.
The set of exhibits also contains a great number of original publications of democratic opposition (books and flyers). In order to document the illegal process of producing and transmitting underground materials, European Solidarity Centre gathered original printing and copy machines, as well as some extraordinary transportation containers (fire extinguisher from France or tin cans from Belgium). Different type of objects is represented by the hand-made artefacts produced by imprisoned dissidents, like: rosaries made from bread, crosses cut out of the cans or stamps produced from the shoe heels.
- artifacts: 1000-
- graphics: 1000-
- manuscripts (ego-documents, diaries, notes, letters, drafts, etc.): 1000-
- publications (books, newspapers, articles, press clippings): 1000-
Geographical scope of recent operation
Date of founding
Place of founding
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Important events in the history of the collection
- parts are closed to the public
- European Solidarity Centre Permanent Exhibition Guide, edited by Basil Kerski and Konrad Knoch, 2016, 116 pages, ISBN 978-83-62853-52-6
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Author(s) of this page
- Tołłoczko-Suchańska, Barbara
Krzencessa-Ropiak, Monika , interview by Tołłoczko-Suchańska, Barbara, April 24, 2017. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection