While at the HERA Uses of the Past & Public Spaces Conference this month I got to visit the Solidarity Museum and see a bit of Gdansk.
The European Centre for Solidarity
The conference and the Solidarity Museum are in the European Centre for Solidarity. This is an amazing building designed to look and feel like a ship under construction in a shipyard. This means the central part of the interior rises up like the side of a ship from floor level. The surrounding building has beams and girders at angles as if supporting the ship. The lack of right angles can be a bit disorientating!
The Solidarity Museum
I can remember the 1980 strike and later events in Poland quite well. That made going to the museum an interesting mix of seeing what I remembered and learning new things.
The first thing that struck me in the museum was the volume of objects and material. There is an audio tour but even without it there is plenty of interpretation. The route around the museum is way marked with clear black and white arrows on the floor and above head height. The displays vary in style which does jar sometimes as you go from room to room. Once in a room you soon forget this because the displays are absorbing. This is from many individual stories and accounts against the broader narrative.
The museum is bigger than I expected which was great. Make sure you allow enough time to see it all!
Gdansk separates into a modern area I stayed in, historic parts and the shipyards. I only had a short time to walk through the old town down to the river. I did spot a church under repair, a tower from 1400 and the armoury from 1605. The wonderful renovated armoury building had lots of decorations form gilt to statues. This included lifesize halberdiers at roof height and splendid dragon shaped downspouts.
Down by the river I admired a restored warehouse. Then spotted two very small diesel powered galleons. These looked like film props with their cannon and gold or silver decorations. I would have liked more time because there was so much to see. But it was a brisk walk to the conference. There I was on a panel talking about a HERA project I’m working on called Public Renaissance.