National Museum of Agriculture and Agri-food Industry in Szreniawa

National Museum of Agriculture and Agri-food Industry in Szreniawa

The National Museum of Agriculture and Agri-food industry in Szreniawa and its branches: the Museum of Rural Industry Milling and Water Machines in Jaracz, the Museum of Natural History and Hunting in Uzarzew, Prof. Ryszard Kostecki’s Open Air Museum and Beekeeping Museum in Swarzędz, Wicker and Hop Cultivation Museum in Nowy Tomyśl and Meat Industry Museum in Sielinek are located in small, charming localities near Poznań. Thanks to rich collections, an interesting offer in terms of educational and cultural events and their attractive location they are a perfect destination for one-day trips for visitors to the region of Great Poland (Wielkopolska).

Szreniawa is a locality in the Lake District of Poznań, located at the edge of the National Park of Great Poland. Since 1964 it is the seat of the National Museum of Agriculture and Agri-food Industry. This facility boasts the largest Polish exhibition presenting the history of agriculture and the agri-food industry as well as the evolution of the Polish countryside landscape. Passing through the building of the museum’s cashier’s desk we come straight into a farm and palace complex from the mid-19th century which belonged in the past to the Bierbaumowie family (the panorama tower which contains the mausoleum of the Bierbaumowie family is also managed by the museum). In the former park there is a gallery of busts of persons of merit for agriculture and the popular movement (we will see here, among others, the bust of professor Maksymilian Siła-Nowicki, a zoologist, ichthyologist and entomologist) and part of the beekeeping exhibition – figurative hives, log and chest hives, as well as farming machines. Outdoor there is also an exhibition showing impressive, huge steam engines and a beautiful thresher from 1920. While walking through the park we can also see wooden treadmills used in the past to power the thresher and a silo from the 1930s, as well as a historical windmill.

A visit to the museum starts in an exhibition pavilion presenting the history of agriculture on Polish lands from the 8th to the end of the 18th century. Interested visitors will learn what a wooden plough is, in which regions it was used, how it differs from a harrow and what it was used for. One can also learn about traditional rural handicraft and visit a carpenter’s, leatherworker’s and blacksmith’s workshop to see how they evolved in time. Every next exhibition room presents the development of techniques connected to processing, farming and food industry. We can see models of farms and 19th century pre-industrial manufactures, e.g. a sugar factory. At the end of the visit the guests can check how strong they are by grinding grain into flour with a quern stone.

Szreniawa is well worth a visit every weekend. That is also when „Museum meets guests” events are organised: lectures together with interactive demonstrations. All year round, the museum organises fairs and special events, such as e.g. spring Easter shows, often together with a farmer’s market where you can buy Easter decorations made by folk artists and handicraftsmen. In August, the museum hosts shows entitled „Country wedding”, and in September and October visitors can witness „Countryside autumn”; in December a “Christmas Fair” is organized and offers a wide range of Christmas tree decorations.

Even a simple stroll in the historical park can be very pleasant. A clear advantage of this place is also the possibility to visit corrals where farm animals are kept and which were organised in the Museum especially for the youngest visitors.

The National Museum of Agriculture and Agri-food Industry in Szreniawa also has a number of exhibitions outside of its main seat (in the neighbourhood of Poznań). One of them is the Museum of Rural Industry Milling and Water Machines founded in 1981 in a former mill settlement in Jaracz. This museum presents 19th century buildings. In the old mill one can see an exhibition of historical mill engines, and in the reconstructed stables near the mill tools used to manually process grain brought from all regions of Poland are shown, i.e. foot and manual wooden grain mortars with a small bench or rotary querns. Visitors to the museum may also commission a museum lesson entitled "From grain to loaf” during which they learn about the secrets of bread baking. Another building worth a visit is the miller’s house, beautifully overgrown with Parthenocissus, a plant very popular in Poland. You can also see many models of mills and windmills. An additional attraction is the possibility to book a room in the miller’s house in order to enjoy the beautiful countryside for a longer time. You can make long hikes in the neighbouring forests, go on a horse ride in a nearby stud or angle in the river – everyone will find something to their taste. The museum is also a great place to rest for canoeist paddling down the Wełna river.

Another exhibition worth visiting and which is a part of the Museum of Szreniawa is Prof. Ryszard Kostecki’s Open Air Museum and Beekeeping Museum in Swarzędz. It was founded in 1963, on the premises of the Field Laboratory of Bee Diseases. Professor Ryszard Kostecki from the Veterinary Institute of Puławy was its main originator and has now become its patron. The open air museum and the museum itself were initially independent, but since 1999 they have joined the Szreniawa Museum. What brings visitors to this place is a collection of over 230 hives (including hives woven of straw called koszki) gathered around the old farming building and a wild beehive in an oak trunk from the 15th century. Most of the hives are located near honey-giving plants, which is why a visit to the museum in summer, when they blossom, is highly recommended. In the main building of the museum visitors can enjoy exhibitions about beekeeping, forest bee-keeping, silk production and learn more about the life of wild pollinators. Exhibits were mainly brought by professor Kostecki from all around Poland, but were also manufactured at his request by local artists. An important figure in this respect is the sculptor Aleksander Berwid, the author of a hive in the shape of a girl from the Łowicz region in a traditional dress which welcomes guest near the entrance gate to the museum.

At the end of August the Open Air Museum and Beekeeping Museum in Swarzędz organizes an event entitled ”Honey summer in the open air museum”. During this event visitors can learn more about work in an apiary, which plants provide honey, honey production techniques and the uses of wax. We can also see how a forest beekeeper climbs a tree and why he does so. During the fair you will also have the opportunity to taste some honey straight from the hive and to make a wax candle on your own.

The next branch of the Museum of Agriculture and Agri-food Industry in Szreniawa is the Wicker and Hop Cultivation Museum in Nowy Tomyśl with an open air exhibition. It was founded in 1985 and located in the City Park, where is occupies 1.75 ha. The seat of the museum is located in a reconstructed Dutch residential building from the end of the 18th century. Visitors can learn about the history of hop and wicker cultivation and industry. The most interesting exhibits are a bag woven of birch bark and huge wicker baskets manufactured in the 1950s. As every department of the museum in Szreniawa, also the branch in Nowy Tomyśl offers museum lessons to young visitors on such topics as: ”From stick to basket”, “A story woven of wicker” or “An ancient tale of hop”. If you book your visit in proper advance the staff of the museum can organize a weaving workshop entitled ”Wicker weaving for dummies”. They have extensive experience in the matter since twice a year Nowy Tomyśl hosts meetings of professional wicker plaiters: ”The wicker weaving plein-air workshop” and “Meetings of young wicker plaiters”. During those events pupils of artistic or vocational schools with a wicker profile try their hand at weaving, under the vigilant eyes of eminent artists. Their works can then be seen in the museum – they are exhibited outdoor and in the Dutch barn reconstructed in 2006.

Apart from the branches in Szreniawa, Jaracz, Swarzędz and Nowy Tomyśl, the National Museum of Agriculture and Agri-food Industry also has branches in Uzarzew (the Museum of Natural History and Hunting opened in 1977) and its youngest facility in Sielinek (Meat Industry Museum which opened in 2005). A visit to the National Museum of Agriculture and Agri-food Industry will, therefore, not only be long, but also interesting and will answer many, also difficult, questions concerning everyday life in the countryside and the farmer's work.

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