Centralne Muzeum Morski

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Gdansk, Poland

Centralne Muzeum Morski Gdansk Reviews

sarahelaine sarahela…
651 reviews
Maritime Museum, Gdansk Aug 31, 2013
The Central Maritime Museum in Gdansk is very interesting, not least because of the way it established its collection. Under Communist control for much of its early history, it didn’t have much access to the world market in antiquities, and was outcompeted by the more established Naval Museum in Hel for many exhibits. So it established one of the world’s first departments of underwater archaeology and started searching the wrecks in Gdansk Bay and out in the Baltic, making some astonishing discoveries as it went.

The museum in Gdansk has four parts; the maritime culture section on the main harbourfront, the museum itself across the river, the coal freighter Soldek, and the great crane of Gdansk.

The main museum is perhaps the most traditional part, although it is very interesting. The marine archaeology means that you can see astonishingly well preserved relics from wrecks from boats from the 1300s until very recent, and the work of the department has shaped our understanding of all sorts of aspects of maritime history, like what sailors really wore (clothes have been found that were covered in tar during shipwrecks and so have been found intact) and how ships were built. A ship carrying a cargo of copper has been found, with some amazingly well preserved finds of cargo and the sailor’s possessions, and the museum has a very large collection of marine cannons. There is also a lot of information about the role of shipping in the development of Gdansk as a city, as it changed ownership frequently, from being part of Poland, owned by the Teutonic Knights, part of Germany, a free city, and being under Soviet control, and then the cradle of a free Polish state. The exhibit labels are in Polish, but there are baskets of printed information in English, German and sometimes Russian and French available on the walls. The rooms of paintings had no English information, and no dates even in Polish, but then paintings of boats and seascapes were not the main highlight of my trip anyway.

The Soldek was the first ship built in the Gdansk shipyards after the war. She is a coal freighter – a relatively small cargo ship that plied the north sea and Baltic trade routes. There is very little information in any language (although to be honest it’s pretty clear what most things are – a kitchen and a furnace look like a kitchen and a furnace anywhere), let alone English. But despite the lack of information, it is interesting to visit a former working cargo ship. Most museums preserve “impressive” ships like liners and naval vessels, but seeing the cabins and communal spaces on the Soldek gives you an impression what living quarters were really like in a working ship of the mid twentieth century.

The Great Crane is the main landmark of Gdansk, and you can see two of its great wheels from the street. It could lift up to 5 tons of material from ships and was last used in the mid twentieth century. Powered by men tramping around the four great wheels like hamsters in hamster wheels, it is a masterpiece of medieval engineering. The museum displays inside the crane are about the least interesting in the museum, relying heavily on the “waxwork model of a dock worker with some rope” school of museum design, but seeing the machinery close up is worth the effort when it is included in your ticket anyway.

The maritime museum cultural centre next door to the crane is the most modern part, with plenty of buttons for children to press and some interesting displays on the history of the museum, boat building through the ages, and an interactive exhibit on people and ports. It might be the part I saved for last if I had kids, as a bribe. All the video interactive units worked (unlike some museums I could mention, Liverpool…) and had a translate to English function.

I would recommend a visit here to anyone who is interested in history or boats, and there is about a half-day’s worth of activities if you tried to see everything. You might want to be a little selective if you have children with you. There are lots of helpful guides who speak good English to help you find your way around, although that can get a bit embarrassing if they are trying to direct you to the next room and you are kind of trying to sneak out because you aren’t that interested in paintings of boats (sorry…). I got a 28 zloty ticket that gave me access to all four parts and a return trip on the little ferry (every 15 minutes and 1.50 zloty if you don’t buy a museum ticket each way), but cheaper tickets that don’t include all four parts are available, as are student and child discounts. Disabled access to the new part is fine, but the Soldek and the Crane would be impossible and I didn’t notice if there were lifts in the main museum.
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