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The Museum of Folk Culture and the Ethnographic Park on the Węgorapa River

Węgorzewo – the Museum of Folk Culture and the Ethnographic Park on the Węgorapa River

The Ethnographic Park on the Węgorapa River and the Museum of Folk Culture in Węgorzewo (Portowa Street 1, 11-600 Węgorzewo) are active institutions promoting the Masurian Region. It is here that visitors may admire traditional country architecture and thematic exhibitions dedicated to the history of the Masuria Region. The offer of the handicraft workshop (weaving, pottery, sculpture) is especially noteworthy. The institution also organizes many events connected with folklore.

In the vicinity of the picturesque Węgorzewo harbor, next to the yachting marina, it is possible to stumble upon old Masurian cottages, exhibits of the Ethnographic Park on the Węgorapa River. It is undoubtedly a special place due to its atypical localization and the fact that this comparatively small institution (in fact two institutions: located next to the Park is the Museum of Folk Culture) presents the locals and tourists with an unbelievably rich educational and recreational offer.

The idea of creating the Ethnographic Park on the Węgorapa River appeared in the early 1990s in response to the need to preserve the disappearing tradition of Masurian folk architecture. The first exhibits were moved to the Museum in 1994. These included a log remise form the Ołownik village (Budry Commune) and a timber-frame smithy from the Zabrost Wielki village (Budry Commune), both dating from the turn of the 20th century.

The Park’s collection systematically grew. Currently, the exposition consists mainly of Masurian arcade cottages. Two log houses were relocated from the Krzyżewo village (Kalonowo Commune). One is an early 19th century two-parted cottage with jutting arcades (reconstructed) and an 18th century cottage with a corner-recess arcade. The neighboring building is a late 18th century log cabin with a gable arcade form the Woźnice village (Mikołajki Commune). The farm buildings (also form Krzyżewo) are inhabited by the goat Musia, children’s favorite and the Museum’s mascot. Also found within the Museum’s perimeter is a household from the second half of the 19th century, the ground floor of which is made out of brick, while the garret is a timber-frame construction filled with brick.

The interiors of the above mentioned buildings have been adapted for exposition purposes. Found here is an incredibly rich collection of handcrafted items and tools for their production; the “Country craftsmanship – tools and products” exhibition is a tribute to the art of basketry, carpentry and blacksmithing. Also featured is a weaving workshop with a display of traditional looms. One of the cottages form Krzyżewo recreates a typical country house interior.

The Jelcz fire engine form the second half of the 20th century stationed next to the remise may prove particularly interesting to the aficionados of motorization. Visitors looking for intriguing examples of folk art will surely be fascinated by the works of Władysław Benderowicz, a self-taught artist who seeks inspiration in the material itself; a piece of wood “suggests” his creative imagination into what object it should be molded. The effects of this creative play with reality are stunning.

The sculptures which are scattered throughout the Park’s premises are also intriguing. These are mostly wooden figurines, widely popular in the country in the 1960s, as well as stone Prussian “women.” The latter are modern interpretations of the hypotheses concerning Prussian stone symbolism, made during classes at the Museum’s sculpting workshop.

The Museum of Folk Culture, which occupies an 18th century manor-type building from the first half of the 18th century, co-exists in ideal symbiosis with the Ethnographic Park. The Museum of Folk Culture is a dynamically growing unit which collects true aficionados who actively promote the region. The process of building the Museum of Folk Culture’s collection, which operates since 1991, began already in the 1960s, initiated by a group of people fascinated by the region’s history. The collection is constantly expanding, what is noteworthy, by progressively newer exhibits.

The “Ojcowizna” (“Patrimony”) Society for the Rescue of the Cultural Heritage of the Old and Current Borderlands holds patronage over the “Gift for the Museum” campaign, which encourages the inhabitants of the Masurian lands to transfer household utensils from the Inter War Period, but also from the second half of the 20th century, to the institution. The exhibition which displays a fragment of these latest acquisitions will undoubtedly be interesting for all. Parents will fondly recall the “Warsaw” radio set, while their children will have the opportunity to learn about the realities in which their parents and grandparents grew up. The “Losy nasze” (“Our Fates”) contest is an equally interesting initiative. It encourages the inhabitants of northern and eastern Poland to transfer to the Museum documents depicting the life of the inhabitants of the old Masuria Region (journals, photographs, letters and memoires).

The Museum has at its disposal a specialist library which collects publications in various languages form the fields of ethnography, history, and archaeology, as well as materials pertaining to the region, including photographs and postcards. The Museum’s ongoing publication is the “Studia Angerburgica” periodical, which specializes in the publication of scientific texts, and the “Pod Jesonkiem” newspaper devoted to the Museum’s current events. At this point, the author of multiple publications dealing with the history and culture of the region, tireless folklore scholar, Jerzy Marek Łapo, Ph.D, should also be mentioned.

One of the goals the creators of the Museum of Folk Culture have set for themselves is the rescue of the gradually disappearing crafts characteristic for the region. In order to preserve the regional tradition, the institution works to promote many fields of handicraft. For this reason, the Museum gives its visitors a chance to admire the effects of textile production, pottery and basketry, and learn these traditional skills at one of the many vibrant workshops: pottery and ceramics, weaving, the florist shop, wicker and straw plaiting shop, sculpting (mostly stone) workshop, ritual art (among others, Easter egg painting) workshops. The Museum offers courses in a varying degree of advancement, adequate to the participants’ skills.

It is possible to organize museum lessons or nature school trips here. The Museum is also an ideal place for those wishing to master handicraft, since the workshops offer both classes and professional courses organized by the Schooling Center of Traditional and Artistic Trades.

Also noteworthy is the “Pruthenia” Society of the Aficionados of the History and Culture of Prussia (www.pruthenia.strefa.pl), which organizes westbaltic ceramics classes at one of the Museum’s workshops.

The Museum organizes many events dedicated to the promotion of folklore and of the region itself, and the full events list can be found in the current events section at the Museum’s website. The most important of these include:

  • The cycle of meetings entitled “A Study of Knowledge about the Region”;
  • An overview of carolers’ performances called “Herody” (“Herods”) after the Biblical King Herod (January – February);
  • A fair connected with an overview of ritual performances called “The Spring Feast” (on the Saturday one week before Easter);
  • The Węgorapa Folk Music Festival and the International Folklore Fair (the first weekend of August).

Practital information

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