The idea of organizing the museum of textiles in Łódź was born already in 1946. In the city with rich textile tradition, the biggest Polish centre of textile industry, this idea seemed unquestioned. The conception was reminded to the authorities of the City, Ministry of Art and Culture in 1949, 1950, 1951, but it was only in 1952 when the department of textiles (not the museum!) was established in the Muzeum Sztuki (Museum of Art) in Łódź. After 1955 it had its seat, although it was connected with evicting of the former users, major repair and adaptation (the main user was the Cotton Mill ESKIMO). The seat was the White Factory, a magnificent complex of classicist buildings, one of the most beautiful monuments of industrial architecture in Poland. Erected by Ludwig Geyer in 1835-1839, the White Factory (many times expanded and re-built) was the first in Poland multi-department factory. It housed the first in Poland mechanical spinning, weaving and printing rooms for cotton, driven by steam machine (as a consequence of steam machine work, the first chimney was erected nearby the factory premises, the first one in Łódź; later, Łódź was often referred to as “the city of chimneys”).
The collection of the department was growing quickly. Exhibitions displayed in specially selected space of the Muzeum Sztuki (Museum of Art) in Łódź, in textile factories in Łódź and in numerous cultural institutions in Poland, aroused much interest and were very popular. Therefore, decision was taken to make the department “independent” as Branch of the Museum of Art. This situation lasted only for several months in 1959. In 1960 Museum of the History of Textiles was established, a separate independent institution. In 1975 the new name was given – the Central Museum of Textiles. Its first and long-time director was Krystyna Kondratiukowa (earlier, she was head of department). Slowly, with many problems, various parts of the four-wing complex were given to the museum, after necessary overhaul and adaptations. After 50 years from the moment when the Minister of Light Industry decided to concede the White Factory as the seat of the museum, this decision has finally been carried in effect.
The scientific, collector and promotion interests of the museum concentrate around everything related to textile manufacturing process – from materials, through textile techniques and technologies to textiles products representing various processing degree. This assumption results in the fact that apart from textiles we also collect other non-textiles fibres, felts, knitting as well as garments made of them and contemporary artworks created from paper (because linen and cotton “end” their lives in paper mills). Collections are gathered, scientifically elaborated, conserved and, in various forms, displayed by the specialized thematic departments of the museum.
The Museum’s surface (apart from the objects in the open-air museum) equals 16 000 square meters, including 7 000 square meters of exhibition space. In our history we organized over 1 000 exhibitions (with documented 900, as the archival materials from the first two decades of museum’s history are incomplete). Since 1972 the museum worked in co-operation and since 1982 is the sole organizer of the International Triennial of Tapestry. Presently, it is the oldest and biggest world international exhibition-competition promoting the contemporary “fibre art”. Usually, 120-140 artists representing 50-55 countries take part in the exhibitions. Apart from the triennial, our museum is the sole organizer and exhibitor of big national Polish events – National Exhibition of the Polish Tapestry (since 2004), National Exhibition of the Polish Miniature Textiles (since 1998), national Exhibition of the Polish Cross-Stitch Embroidery of Amateur Artists (since 2000); each of them is visited by several dozen thousand people.
The Department of the History of Textiles documents the history of development of textile crafts and industry on the territory of Poland with special reference to the Łódź Industrial District. This wide thematic and chronological spectrum results in diversified character of the collection, which includes some 2 350 items. Majority of them are archival documents – settlement contracts and immigrants’ declaration protocols, payment books, journeyman and accounts booklets of workers, inner order regulations, work certificates, workers’ cards, guild certificates and diplomas, diplomas awarded for work competition, books containing protocols of shareholders’ assemblies, statutes and reports of company’s board of management, pricelists of cotton products, rationalization certificates as well as letters and diplomas of congratulation. Special attention should be paid to the set of plans and architecture designs of factory buildings, factory villas as well as houses for workers. The set includes 181 positions, the oldest of which dates back to the 1880s, including a unique construction plan of the eastern wing of the White Factory from 1886 and a set of plans, including 26 positions, of the former General Company of the Spinning Industry Allart Rousseau Joint Stock Company covering the years 1880-1949.
Another priceless set is the thematic collection of historical securities issued by textile companies as well as financial and insurance institutions working with them, which includes some 300 shares, obligations, mortgage bonds, bills and insurance policies. Among them there are two rare shares of the Company of Wool Manufactures from 1768 and the fist share of the Share Society of K. Scheibler Cotton Factories from 1880 with unusually high nominal equal 25 000 Rubles printed on genuine parchment in the Warsaw Lithographic Printing House of Maksymilian Fajans.
Attention should be paid to the collection of advertisement prints from the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century with 192 lithographs presenting panorama view of the mill, decorated with vignettes of bills, official papers, labels and banderoles for textile products. A complementation to the collection is the iconographic collection with 19 photographic album, ex.: Scheibler’s and Grohman’s mills, those owned by Krusche and Ender, and F. Eisenbraun and the contemporary ones such as Cotton Mill “Alba”, Cotton Mill “Uniontex”, Knitting Mill “Bistona”, Wool Mill “Textilpol”, Pabianice Cotton Mill “Pamotex” and an especially valuable album entitles “Exhibition of Fine Arts for the National Polish Collection “Help Children” in 1916 with photographs by engineer Michał Daszewski. Moreover, in the archives you can find 455 photographs and post cards thematically related to the textile industry and its workers, including 114 photographs, donated by Jerzy Grohman, presenting former K. Scheibler and L. Grohman mill. An interesting relic of the past is the collection of family photos of the President of Łódź Franciszek Traeger (1805-1871) with other souvenirs of his life.
In the department we also have a numismatic collection with 122 medals commemorating both Polish and foreign industrial exhibitions, issued by textile mills, trade centrals, trade union and guild organizations from 1846-2005, 7 plaques and 70 guild orders of merit, branch, textile and mill awarded to members of great merit or long-time employees. In the department we also house a set of 160 standards of guilds, mills, trade union organizations as well as social and political organizations dating from the years 1846-1985, with sets of 15 flags awarded for work competition, 2 banners and 15 embroidered standard sashes. Moreover, in the collection one can find other accessories used in textile mills – factory signs, stamps for marking fabrics, signature stamps, irons, candle lamps, mill bell, clock for punching workers’ cards as well as elements of office equipment, old typing machine, historical phone machine as well as hand-driven counting machines, the so-called summing pieces.
Another set is related to the workers’ culture in Łódź. Furniture, elements of house equipment and objects of daily use, mainly from inter-war period. The department also houses furniture from mansion houses of mail owners, including equipment of the factory owner’s office – from the former Karol Steinert mill. The research work conducted in the department concentrates on the history of the Łódź Industrial District, architecture of the Łódź textile factories as well as collecting information about family life of Łódź industry people.
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