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.
Last month I stayed in the Hamlet Hotel in Elsinore which had character and a very helpful owner. I was working at the Danish Museum of Technology so had little time to explore. This meant most of my time in the town was at night.
There was a full moon which made exploring very atmospheric. Seeing the town lights almost outshone by the moon visibility was good. The late medieval and early modern town was charming to walk around. The church had a fien gothic look under the moonlight but seeing the castle in the distance was even better!
At the Technology Museum
At the Technology Museum, based in the the learning room, I did get a tour of the museum. It is a very traditional museum with an emphasis on transport. From childhood visits to the London Science Museum and steam fairs this felt familiar to me.
I really enjoyed the fine collection of fire engines. I put this interest in fire engines down to watching the firefighters at the fire station opposite my father’s print shop in childhood. Going inside the recreated fire station felt like a real treat! In the patents gallery seeing the 1965 Lego set submitted for patent was another echo of childhood.
More to see in Elsinore
Lack of time meant catching the ferry to Sweden. So I missed seeing the castle and going in the church. There was more of the town to explore too. I’ll just have to go back another time!
It started with the Gokstad ship
Visiting the Viking Ship Museum
The Gokstad ship
The Tune ship
The objects and textile gallery
The museum shop and cafe
And there’s more
I knew of Henry Lamb’s work only though his portrait of Evelyn Waugh. On seeing this exhibition at Salisbury Museum I realised I had seen some of his Second World War paintings of Canadians before. So this exhibition was a great chance to see more of his work and find out more about the artist.
The exhibition at Salisbury Museum
The museum itself is close to the cathedral and the staff are very welcoming. It is paid admision so be prepared for that.
The exhibition covered the artist’s life from start to finish with plenty of work from each phase. As well as finished work sketches were included. In the war artist section this showed how he made colour notes on sketches. These informed the finished work which was also on display. I thought this was a lovely bit of curation.
Some of the highlights were seeing major works alongside family portraits. Also the quotes from others and his relationships as a young artist. He was legendarily good looking, so there was plenty to read about! The portraits of his family and children were a contrast to the earlier and war work. Again seeing a body of his work on his family made the exhibition worthwhile.
The permanent displays
We had a good look around the rest of the museum. The archaeology galleries are very well laid out and plenty of objects to discover in cupboards and drawers. Seeing familiar objects from photographs in context with related finds is always interesting.
From the very contemporary archaeology galleries the costume display is very much traditional regional museum in feel. We both liked this mix of new and old in presentation though. The costume collection is impressively varied and naturally has local connections. The reconstructed doctor’s surgery is a reminder of how tough things were before the NHS.
If you’re in Salisbury I’d recommend a visit to the museum. And they have their own cafe.