Archaeological Museum, Gdansk
Archaeological Museum, Gdansk Reviews
Archaeological Museum Aug 31, 2013
The archaeological museum in Gdansk is a small, friendly, but ultimately slightly frustrating museum in the centre of the old town, accessed through the most beautiful of the shopping streets. It reminds me slightly of how museums used to be when I was a tiny wee thing, in that it very much belongs to the “put some stuff that is roughly related to each other in a glass cabinet and hope for the best” school of museum information. This isn’t just a function of me not speaking Polish – many displays weren’t even dated, and I would have recognised dates even if they were in Polish.
The best of the displays had English and Polish signing, including dates, and a wealth of interesting information. I was fascinated by the display on amber, and there was an interesting display on the role of Marian Pilgrimage in Gdansk’s history. There was also an interesting, if slightly grizzly, exhibit on paleopathology (the science of guessing what someone was sick with, hundreds of years ago). That was labelled in Polish and English, although it also took some guess work (is the slightly shiny patch of bone around the hole in this skull evidence of healing? I am not sure…). The bronze age metallurgy display looked interesting, but was not translated into English, which is more reasonable (it’s not like our museums have Polish signs…) but a little frustrating. However, there were some really fascinating face urns* and hut urns that weren’t dated even in Polish, and that I would have loved to have learned more about. At some point I am sure I will spend a happy hour or two on the internet finding out, but a bit of a clue wouldn’t have gone amiss, in any language.
The staff are terrific. Many of the displays are kept in darkness until a visitor turns up, and so if you walk past a darkened door you are periodically startled by an enthusiastic lady leaping up to turn on the lights for you. This makes it very hard to skip the rooms that you are less interested in, for fear of hurting their feelings, but it is quite impressively good customer service anyway.
There is also (of course) a tower to climb. The view is very nice, and you get a good view of St Mary’s Cathedral and the docks from there, without the slight fear of imminent death you get in St Mary’s tower itself.
On Saturdays the museum is free, and on those grounds I would recommend it to anyone. On any other day, it is a nice place to kill an hour or so, especially if you are interested in paleopathology, or have come across Face Urns* on the internet and would like to see them in real life. Other than that, I am not sure I would bother.
*oh – and on the subject of Face Urns – Early Pomeranian funeral tradition, more information from the mighty Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomeranian_culture
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