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The Ignacy Łukasiewicz Museum of Petroleum Industr

The Ignacy Łukasiewicz Museum of Petroleum Industry in Bóbrka

The Ignacy Łukasiewicz Museum of Petroleum Industry in Bóbrka is a special place, located as it is at the oil-mining plant which, established in 1854, was one of the first in the world. The plant was set up by Ignacy Łukasiewicz, Tytus Trzecieski and Karol Klobasse-Zrencki right in the village of Bóbrka, between Krosno and Dukla. And it is still in operation!

The aim of the Bóbrka Museum is to document the development of petroleum industry in Poland and to present the heritage of Polish oil-miners to the public. The idea to establish the museum was put forward in the late 19th century, still within Ignacy Łukasiewicz’s lifetime, but was carried through only in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s due to the efforts of the employees of the Krosno Oil-Mining Company and the Krosno Museum of the Polish Tourist and Sightseeing Society (PTTK), Antoni Lorens, stanisław Grabowiec, Irena Okólska, Jerzy Tur, and Józef Ostaszewski among them, and Józef Janowski, who afterwards was the museum’s director. In 1961, the Management Board of the Association of Engineers and Technicians of Oil and Gas Industry created the Museum of Petroleum Industry and the first meeting of the Museum Council was held. The museum opened in 1972, on Ignacy Łukasiewicz’s 150th birth anniversary.

Born in 1822 in the village of Zaduszniki (today in the Sub-Carpathian Voivodeship) Ignacy Łukasiewicz (full name: Jan boży Józef Ignacy Łukasiewicz) was a Pole of Armenian origin, and a Polish patriot involved in the liberation movement and Positivistic grassroots initiatives. He invented the paraffin lamp, the sheet-metal frame of which was devised for him by a Lvov smith Adam Bratkowski. Łukasiewicz’s newly-constructed lamp was used for the first time on the memorable date of 31st July 1853, during a night-time emergency operation at the Lyczaków general hospital in Lvov. A few months earlier, while working in a Lvov pharmacy, Ignacy Łukasiewicz and Jan Zeh experimented with rock oil. They researched the processes of refining crude oil and, aware that crude oil had long been used as a lubricant and liniment for cattle, its use for medicinal purposes. During research, they applied the method of fractional distillation and obtained naphtha. In 1854 Łukasiewicz moved to Gorlice, where again he was employed in a pharmacy. In the same year, the corner of węgierska and Kościuszki streets in Gorlice was lit with the first-ever gas streetlamp. The Trzecieski-Łukasiewicz Petroleum Company was founded, with the result that the world’s first oil-mine was established in Bóbrka. In 1857, in Klęczany near Nowy Sącz, Łukasiewicz established the first petroleum refinery, producing naphtha, lubricants and asphalt. Until his death in 1882, he was continuously involved in the development of Polish petroleum industry, as well as in the liberation movement and social initiatives. It is not without reason that people used to say: “all the roads in western Lesser Poland are paved with Łukasiewicz’s guldens”. The inhabitants of Bóbrka called him Father: he founded an infirmary and a school there, and together with his partner Karol Klobassa they erected a church. In recognition of his merits, Pope Pius IX awarded him the Order of St. Gregory and the honorific title of papal chamberlain.

The Ignacy Łukasiewicz Museum of Petroleum Industry in Bóbrka houses a collection of Łukasiewicz memorabilia, as well as photographs and documents relating to crude oil itself, and the techniques of petroleum mining, engineering, refining and exploitation. The archives hold e.g. 1920’s books of statutes for the miners, issues of specialist periodicals that have been published since the late 19th century, as well as remarks and records of people connected with the history of the industry. Commemorative medals, postcards and envelopes with occasional stamps, and postage stamps relating to petroleum industry are part of the collection.

Among the most valuable, and the most interesting exhibits of the Museum of Petroleum Industry are the still-operational kopankaoil wells dating from the 1860’s, that is from Łukasiewicz’s lifetime. The wells, affectionately named “Franek” and “Janina” (Frank and Jenny), exemplify an obsolete extraction technique: they were first dug by hand, with the use of spades, picks and poles, and then deepened by drilling with a hand-operated drill. Crude oil extracted from the “Franek” well is used by the museum for conservation purposes, whereas the “Janina” well is still exploited on an industrial scale.

Buildings of the Bóbrka mine, e.g. the interesting “Naftusia” house, and mining appliances can be seen in the open-air exhibition. Apart from exhibits relating to Bóbrka, the museum collects objects from other plants of the Carpathian oil-mining region and from the rest of Poland; among them are a steam engine and derrick hoists. The selection of exhibits permits the visitors to get acquainted with the history of petroleum industry from its beginnings until our times. Strolling along the museum’s paths, they will see not only 19th-century oil wells and drills, but also machinery and appliances that are still in use, or at least not long out of it, like a petrol station designed in the 1980’s.

The museum’s educational value is enhanced by exhibitions held in the main pavilion and the Łukasiewicz House, formerly the mine’s administrative building. Numerous models and authentic appliances are especially worth a look. The educational trail is accompanied by audiovisuals and museum lessons for schoolchildren; a wide selection of offered topics is found at the museum’s website.

Visitors less interested in the arcane details of drilling rig construction and the refinery equipment can admire beautifully decorated paraffin lamps and experience the feel of crude oil rolled between their fingers, knowing it has been extracted from still-operational 19th-century wells. The all-pervading odour of petroleum adds to the unforgettable atmosphere. What is more, the Ignacy Łukasiewicz Museum of Petroleum Industry in Bóbrka shows not only the history of this industry in Poland, but also its less-known side: the universe of Polish petroleum miners, pervaded not only with oil, but also with rich, often very striking folklore. It is definitely is worth a visit!

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