The Ethnographic Park in Sieradz

The Sieradz Ethnographic Park – division of the Regional Museum in Sieradz

“It is obvious at the first glance that these sculptures are not genial or amiable. No wonder; they were created out of bitterness, anguish and detestation of his neighbours. He would place them in front of his house – black statues, the whites of their eyes so very intense”, wrote Aleksander Jackowski in 2002, commenting on the artistic output of Szczepan Mucha (1908–1983). A self-taught sculptor, Mucha carved figures of humans and devils out of single logs of wood. Finished sculptures he varnished and painted with black wood stain; only the whites of the eyes were painted white, which gave them extraordinary expressiveness. Some of these extremely powerful statues bore captions: Scoundrel, Nark, Rotter. He placed them around his house in the village of Szale near Sieradz. He did that in retaliation for his having been accused of stealing or poaching and sentenced to six months’ imprisonment. On retuning from prison, he devoted his time to woodcarving. In the 1970’s, Szczepan Mucha’s output was highly valued by experts in naive art; he was awarded several prizes and his works are now in several museums and private collections.

The collection of the Regional Museum in Sieradz boasts some statues by Szczepan Mucha, and his house was relocated to the Sieradz Ethnographic Park. The homestead was built relatively late, in the 1950’s, but it is valuable due to Mucha’s artwork that it contains: several sculptures, dating from 1972–1983, grace the interiors, the workshop and the garden. Besides Szczepan Mucha’s house and sculptures, the collection of the Ethnographic Park houses many other valuable exhibits. The exhibition may be small, but due to the tireless efforts of the staff of the Regional Museum’s Department of Ethnography it is exceptionally valuable from the ethnographic point of view.

The first building to be brought to the skansen was a cottage known as the Weaver’s House, relocated from Zgierz in the 1960’s and dating from the first half of the 19th century. Thanks to Zofia Neyman, director of the Regional Museum in 1948-1976, the cottage was renovated and converted into skansen administration offices. The Weaver’s House has a very wide frontage and a post-and-beam frame.

The reconstructed homestead is especially worth seeing. Buildings of which it consists were originally located in several different villages, but the present arrangement of the cottage and its outbuildings is typical for the region of Sieradz. The wide-frontage cottage is originally from Sieradz-Męka and dates from the second half of the 19th century. The walls are built of logs joined in a dovetail and post-and-beam techniques and the hipped rafter roof is thatched. The interior is reconstructed to reflect the same period. The large loom which stands in the living area is in working order. The early 20th-century barn is originally from the village of Ruda. The outbuilding, which is a byre with cart storage space, dates from the turn of the 19th century and was relocated from the village of Wiertelaki. The kumora, a wooden granary, from Brąszewice Zabrodzie was probably built in 1810.

The Regional Museum in Sieradz in cooperation with the District Centre of Culture participates in the “Krzesiwo” Programme, aiming to protect and support the development of the Sieradz Region cultural heritage. This region is located at the boundary of Polish macro-regions: Greater Poland, Mazovia, Silesia and Lesser Poland, and yet it has managed to retain its distinctive character. Within the framework of the programme, folk artists attempt to re-tell and thus revive the sadly vanishing elements of folklore: local dialect, customs and rituals, music, songs and art forms. Since 1996 over a thousand workshop sessions have been organised, demonstrating and teaching traditional crafts, dances and songs. The Sieradz museum organises also very attractive festivals and cultural events. The venue is the Regional Museum building (2, Dominikańska St.) or the Ethnographic Park (1, Grodzka St.). The annual events are especially worth the trip: the “Folklore Spring” presentation of the Sieradz community cultural enterprises, “Folklore Meeting of Central Poland” or the “Art Autumn at the Skansen”.

The Ethnographic Park and the Regional Museum themselves, and the events which take place there, are a very good reason to pay a visit to Sieradz, one of the oldest towns in Poland.

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