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The Museum in Koszalin - Department of Ethmnograph

The Museum in Koszalin – Department of Ethnography and the Skansen of the Jamno Culture

A geographically limited area, which is defined by certain social, cultural and political conditions and clearly different from the surrounding region, is known as a cultural island. This phenomenon is exemplified by two small villages, Jamno and Łabusz, situated between the shore of the Baltic Sea and the Jamno Lake, girdled with the Unieść, Świdniczka and Dzierżęcinka rivers, and bounded by swamps and boggy meadows. Unique cultural features of the two hamlets raised the interest of the Department of Ethnography of the Museum in Koszalin.

Because of their location, Jamno and Łabusz used to be inaccessible for a large part of the year. The locals could visit the neighbouring villages and towns only during a draught or frost, when the surrounding marshes dried up or froze over. Even though the town of Koszalin lies only 6 km away from Jamno, the road between them was completed only in 1899.

Jamno was first mentioned in documents dating from 1278, when the Cistercian nunnery at Koszalin obtained patronage over the local church. According to some scholars, the first written record of Jamno’s existence comes from the year 1224, but those data remain uncertain. Suffice it to say that by the end of the 13th century it had already become a wealthy and influential village. Jamno’s inhabitants were of Slavonic origin, but in the course of history their culture was enhanced by Dutch (since the 18th century) and German elements, the latter due to the Germanisation of Pomerania. In 1825 the Koszalin authorities decided to enfranchise serfs resident in Jamno, the prosperity of the village increased as a result and it was soon obvious that Jamno was the most populous of the eleven villages under Koszalin jurisdiction. Between the second half of the 18th century and the 2nd World War the number of its inhabitants doubled, reaching 779.

Interestingly, Jamno’s cultural isolation lasted until the second half of the 19th century. Its inhabitants were tied by kinship and common customs only with the neighbouring village of Łabusz. They intermarried only within the two villages, and reportedly the first outsider married into one of Jamno’s families only as late as the last years of the 19th century.

After the 2nd World War almost all the villagers were resettled elsewhere, only a fraction of the original population remaining in Jamno; it is their descendants that today pass their knowledge and skills to the following generations. Their traditional costume, embroidery patterns and polychromes are unique in both Pomerania and the entire Poland: not only beautiful, but also made and used solely by the small Jamno community. The singularity of the cultural tradition of Jamno and the neighbouring area has become one of the most important subjects of the exhibition at the Museum in Koszalin.

The exhibition pertaining to Jamno was created in the early 1980’s. An independent Department of Ethnography within the Koszalin Museum was created in 1982. From the very beginning the Koszalin ethnographers were interested chiefly in relics of the Pomeranian and Jamno cultures. Today the collection consists of c. 1500 exhibits.

In 1983 the museum acquired a timber-frame fisherman’s cottage dating from 1869. The cottage was moved from the village of Dąbki, c. 20 km northwest of Jamno, where the same architectural solutions were used. Since May 2001 it houses an exhibition entitled “A Cultural Island. The Village of Jamno near Koszalin”, dedicated exclusively to the Jamno culture. The exhibition is the result of research conducted in the course of several years by Lia Szadkowska, head of the Department of Ethnography in the Koszalin Museum and the author of the exhibition’s layout and catalogue.

The key element of the exhibition in the fisherman’s homestead is the cottage itself, containing 19th- and 20th-century exhibits from Jamno and the neighbouring village of Łabusz. It has additionally been furnished with items which, while originating from other Pomeranian hamlets, are similar to those used in Jamno. Similarly to other buildings, the cottage has a timber frame filled in with wattle-and-daub, i.e. clay mixed with chaff, sawdust or shavings, and then plastered, while the roof is covered with reed thatch. The cottage is divided into three rooms, two storage spaces, a kitchen, a hall and a pigsty. It is noteworthy that its new location retains the original orientation, and that regarding both the cardinal directions and the village road; this way the museum visitors can see how the rooms were lit or through which windows the neighbours could peep in. Another exhibition, called “History of the Pomeranian Smithy” was opened in 2005 in the renovated barn dating from 1882, which was moved from the village of Paproty (about 25 km from Jamno). The third section of the museum is a 19th-century outhouse, also from Dąbki, which houses a reconstruction of a shoemaker’s workshop. All the appliances date from the early 20th century and are still in working order!

The museum not only protects the material aspect of the Jamno culture, but also strives to revive local customs and musical folklore. To that purpose, the Jamno Fair is organised four times a year (in June, July, August and December), where the local craftsmen exhibit their wares, and artists and folk music ensembles present their skills. Since 1990’s the Department of Ethnography in the Koszalin Museum has been creating a central database of contemporary folk artists and artisans.

In the late July 2009 the inhabitants of Jamno and Łabusz organised a demonstration in front of the Prime Minister’s Office in Warsaw, protesting against enlarging the boundaries of the Koszalin municipality. As a result, their villages were to become a part of a larger administrative unit and the locals were afraid of losing their unique identity. Unfortunately, their objections were disregarded and in January 2010 the two hamlets became districts of Koszalin. What remains to be seen is how this change will affect the long-standing traditions and the unique features of the already disappearing culture.

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