History of the Museum
About the Museum
The institution was established on 1 October 1998 by the Municipality of Krakow under the name of the Museum of Municipal Engineering. It was given the historic halls of the oldest tram depot in Kraków as its seat. This is a unique complex in Europe.
The first plans for the Museum date back to the year 1975 and the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Krakow public transport system. A major contribution to the organisation of the new museum facility was provided by members of other institutions associated with technology, such as the Historical Section at MPK in Krakow (City Transport Company), the Association of Engineers and Technicians of Transportation and the Municipal Transport Enthusiasts’ Club. The role of the Krakow Society for the Protection of Monuments of Technology, founded in 1990, which significantly accelerated the organisation of the museum of technology in Krakow, cannot be overestimated.
Originally, the Museum was to be created on the basis of the rolling stock of the MPK Historic Rolling Stock Depot. However, only 20 public transport vehicles from the years 1900-1960, including technical, archival, and photographic documentation, eventually found their way into the collection of the newly-established municipal institution.
The creators of the Museum’s first programme concept envisaged cooperation in the co-creation of the facility with entities historically and actually associated with the Św. Wawrzyńca block: the City Transport Company, Gas Company, and Electricity Company. The name chosen for the institution – Museum of Municipal Engineering – matched such a vision, especially as the collection was to be divided into departments: Public Transport, Transportation, Municipal Engineering, Industry, and daily Technology. However, the plans had to be changed.
Over the years of its existence, the Museum has gathered collections through acquisitions and donations from private individuals, companies, and public institutions. Currently, more than 2,900 items are listed in the Museum’s Inventory Book comprising more than 3,300 objects. For more information, go to the collections tab or visit the site on-line collections.
- permanent exhibitions
For many years, the Museum exhibited its collection of cars and motorbikes in a permanent exhibition entitled “From the History of Polish Motorisation”, replaced in 2015 by a more comprehensive portrayal of motoring issues in the “Motokultura” exhibition. Hall E, the former horse-car depot, was the venue for the presentation of antique printing and bookbinding machines in the permanent exhibition entitled “Printing in Krakow in the 15th-20th centuries’ from 2007/2008 to 2017.” The history of Krakow’s municipal engineering and its importance in the lives of its residents was introduced by the permanent exhibition entitled “Engineering Portrait of the City,” which opened in 2015. The historical tram rolling stock familiar from the streets of Krakow and other Polish cities can be viewed, intermittently, since 2008/2009 in Hall F in the “Trams at Wawrzyńca” exhibition. The ‘Fun with Science’ exhibition, opened in 2003, was one of the first interactive educational exhibitions in Poland. This path continued with the interactive exhibition ‘Around the Wheel’, which has been very popular over the years.
- Temporary exhibition
The Museum has so far hosted dozens of temporary exhibitions and shows, presenting its own collections as well as exhibits from other public and private collections. Among the first exhibitions held in the newly opened Museum were: “Cracovia automobile. The Origins of Motorisation in Krakow”, “Krakow’s Waterworks”, “The Zieleniewski Family and Their Works 1804-1945”, “Talking Machines: Phonographs-Gramophones (1877-1929).” The Museum has repeatedly covered topics related to Krakow’s municipal engineering, dealing with both its history and its present day. Examples of this approach were the following temporary exhibitions: “150 years of the Krakow Gasworks 1856-2006”, “100 Years of Power Engineering in Krakow”, “Technology in the History of Fire Fighting”, “Bells of Life. Krakow’s municipal engineering during the 1939-1945 occupation,” “Tramway Communication: Krakow – Nuremberg, there and back”, “120 Years of the Krakow Ambulance Service”, “Blue Energy. Gas Manufacture Yesterday and Today”, and “Krakow, an Ambitious City.” The history of technology has been the subject of temporary exhibitions on several occasions, among them: “Attention, the Enemy is Eavesdropping. Cryptography Yesterday and Today”, “Game Start / Game Over”, “Not Just from the Factory”, “Radio at Home and Outdoors”, “Forgotten Museum. Adrian Baraniecki and the Technical and Industrial Museum 1868-1950”, “Polish Radio Here 1925 – 2010”, “The World of Coffee”, “The History of Typewriters”, and “Cycling Through the Ages.” The Museum has also organised a series of exhibitions entitled “From the Workrooms of the Krakow Scientists”, introducing the topics of current research in natural sciences.
The following exhibitions covered the history of Krakow’s industry: “Sulphur – the Gold of the Chemists”, “From Wander to Teva. 80 years of the Krakow Pharmaceutical Works”, “Zieleniewski Family and their Works 1804-1945.” The Museum has repeatedly exhibited automotive antiques – both well-known models as well as prototype and low-volume models. Among the temporary exhibitions on motorisation, it is worth mentioning the following exhibitions: “Moto-Stories” presented at the Czyżyny Hangar, “P For Paradox. The story of Fiat 125p”, “Polish Microcars”, “The United Beskids”, “From the Garages of Krakow’s Collectors”, and “Cars of the Refined Society. The Halcyon Days of English Automobiles 1902-1905.”
The Museum has twice been awarded the ”Sibyl” prize in the prestigious Museum Event of the Year contest:
- In 2003, 3rd prize in the category “Natural, Technical and Medical Exhibitions” for the exhibition “Fun with Science,” and
- In 2014, an award in the category ‘Natural and Technical Exhibitions’ for extending the offer of the Stanisław Lew Experimental Garden with new natural education areas (Geo-gródek, Lem-birynth, Zapachowo).
- In 2021, the Museum was awarded a prize in the plebiscite entitled “European Funds are in Małopolska!” for the project entitled “Winter Experimental Garden – Expanding the Offer of the Stanislaw Lew Experimental Garden in Krakow.”’
The Museum is affiliated with international and national museum organisations.
It is an institutional member of the ICOM POLAND National Committee and the ICOM CIMUSET Committee – International Committee for Museums and Collections of Science and Technology. It is a member of the Middle European Union of Technical Museums (MUT), the Association of Polish Museologists, the Association of Museums of the Engineering Arts and the ” SPiN Society and Science” Association – find out more.
Cultural and educational projects
The Museum has implemented cultural and educational projects in international and national partnerships:
- Central European Science Adventure (2010-2012), a project introducing the profiles of scientists and inventors from Central Europe, which involved six technology museums from Slovenia, Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Slovakia. A project with EU funding from the CULTURE Programme. · Second Chance – from industrial infrastructure to creative industries (2010-2013), a project dedicated to the revitalisation of post-industrial areas, co-developed by partners from Nuremberg, Leipzig, Krakow, Venice, and Ljubljana.
- Work With Sounds (2013-2015), a project documenting the sounds of antique technology equipment, undertaken by museums from Sweden, Finland, Belgium, Slovenia, Germany, and Poland. [Project with EU funding from the Culture Programme]
- Sounds of Changes (2017-2019), a sound project documenting changes in the audiosphere driven by technological developments. Implemented by museums from Sweden, Finland, Slovenia, Germany, and Poland. [Project with EU funding from the Creative Europe Programme]
- Knowledge Lab. Creating – Sharing – Protecting (2017-2020), an educational project between schools and museums from Germany, Ireland, and Poland. Supporting the development of students’ competences through the process of co-creating a museum exhibition under the guidance of museum curators. [Project with EU funding from the Erasmus+ Programme] · „SPINaj Naukę” (2021 – 2022), (2021 – 2022), an educational project promoting the achievements of Polish researchers and disseminating knowledge of important scientific discoveries. Implemented by the SPiN Society and Science Association and 11 institutions and science centres from across Poland. [Funded by the “Społeczna odpowiedzialność nauki” “Social Responsibility of Science” Programme of the Minister of Education and Science]
Renovation of the headquarters at 15 Św. Wawrzyńca Street
As soon as the Museum was established, the restoration of individual buildings and their adaptation for museum purposes began. For more information, see renovation of the headquarters.
Watch “Podziemne miasto” (Underground City) showing the effects of the project.