The Museum of the Warsaw Uprising, officially named the “Warsaw Rising Museum”, was the first multimedia museum in the country’s capital. The Museum, covering nearly 3,000 square metres of floor space, portrays the history of the 63-day long uprising battle. The Museum attracts many visitors from Warsaw and elsewhere owing to its engaging exhibitions, such as a replica of a WW2 Warsaw sewer, a Liberator bomber, films, letters, photos and a collection of weapons and uniforms.
The Museum opened in 2004 to mark the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising. It is housed in an old tram power station in Warsaw’s Wola district. The venue was selected because of the good technical condition of the facilities and also its history: in 1944 the building was the scene of ferocious fighting and accommodated civilian and military hospitals, as well as, initially, the Uprising’s Headquarters.
The concept for the museum was developed by Cracow-based architect Wojciech Obtułowicz. The design of the exhibition area was prepared by a team comprised of sculptor and internal designer Mirosław Nizio, graphic designer Jarosław Kłaput, and visual artist Dariusz Kunowski.
The Museum’s exhibition follows the timeline of historic events. The ground floor is devoted to the launch of the Uprising. Visitors may look through special spyholes to examine items such as photographs from the Warsaw Ghetto, read official notices announcing the commencement of the fight displayed on the walls, or go into telephone booths to listen to stories about the first battles. Loudspeakers erupt with gunfire, bomb explosions and radio messages from Uprising forces.
The mezzanine, which can be reached by a lift, features a retrospective of the Uprising and depicts the everyday life of Warsaw’s civilian population during the struggle. An antique stair shaft leads to the first floor hosting the exhibition portraying the Uprising final days: glass-covered, symbolic graves of Uprising soldiers, a large screen which displays films shot during Uprising battles, and finally, photos documenting the surrender of the Uprising forces – laying down arms, the fighters’ exit from the city and their future fate.
A museum room contains a replica of the original radio station used by the Polish Uprising Radio Service, codenamed “Lightining”. Museum visitors may also watch “The City of Ruins”, the first 3-D digital film reconstruction of the destroyed Warsaw of Spring 1945. Calendar cards with a day-by-day description of the Uprising timeline can be collected on all floors. Uprising keepsakes are displayed in cabinets, archive photos are placed on charts and recorded accounts of Uprising participants appear on screens.
The Museum also features the “Room of the Little Insurgent”, a special area for the youngest visitors. In contrast to other exhibition space dominated by steel and bare concrete walls, the room’s wooden interior and warm colours have been designed especially for children. They can play with copies of then-contemporary toys, and try tools used by the Uprising postal services, historically often manned by under-age couriers. The exhibition includes unique objects appealing to all visitors regardless of age, for example a German “Goliath” armoured demolition vehicle, a chess set made of bread by imprisoned Uprising fighters and a well-preserved chocolate bar obtained from Allied airdrops.
The Museum edifice, overlooked by an over 30 metre tall observation tower, is surrounded by Freedom Park whose central feature is the Wall of Remembrance with inscribed names of the insurgents killed during the Uprising. Each year, the Park hosts official ceremonies commemorating anniversaries of the Uprising attended by high-ranking officials and Uprising veterans. It is also a venue for concerts and other cultural events related to the history of the Uprising.
The Museum continues to attract scores of visitors from Poland and abroad. In 2012 alone, it was visited by more than half a million people. Among the prominent guests who have visited the Museum are the Dalai Lama, Richard von Weizsaecker and Shimon Peres. The Warsaw Rising Museum holds various lectures, museum classes, workshops, exhibitions, concerts, contests and city games, and also organises drama performances and the “Innocent Sorcerers” cultural festival. The Museum is constantly developing its Oral History Archives, and young volunteers spare no effort to connect the experience of the young 1944 insurgents to the hearts and souls of today’s youth.
Polish Press Agency (PAP)