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Before the Museum was created...


             The building where the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography is located has a long and interesting history. Over the past decades, it coexisted with both local and national history. As Łódź became an industrial metropolis in an extremely brief time, the building witnessed significant changes happening in the city.

             The history of the Museum’s building, located at Plac Wolności (Freedom Square), is strongly connected to the early development of Łódź and the newly established textile workers’ settlement called “New City”. Before Poland regained its independence and Plac Wolności acquired its identifying marks - the name and the statue of Tadeusz Kościuszko - the place was known as the New City Square. It was a trading spot for people from every culture to coexist in the city.

             While the square was charted two hundred years ago, the idea of an octagonal shape was and still remains, an innovative design. Back then, none of the cities in the Polish Kingdom could claim to have a square in such an atypical shape. Aside from being a trading spot, the New City Square lay at the crossroads of the Piotrków route, which connected the cities of Zgierz and Piotrków. Today, we can see the remainder of the route in the names of the streets: Piotrkowska and Zgierska.

             The New City Square, the newly beating heart of Łódź, was a place where different city needs were fulfilled. In 1827, two new buildings were erected, both with important but differing functions - the City Hall and the Evangelical Church of the Holy Trinity. Both buildings survived until today, although their architectural character has changed, and are located at the beginning of Piotrkowska Street.

             The building where you are currently standing is thirty years younger than the two mentioned previously. It was built in 1856 and housed a German-Russian District School which was an all-boys institution with four classes of students and a focus on technical skills. In 1869, the school became the College of Craftsmanship. It was intended to provide the growing mechanical and textile industry with specialised personnel. College of Craftsmanship was the first institution of its kind in the whole Russian Empire, and its creation was financed by contributions from Łódź craftsmen.

             The school’s neo-renaissance building was designed by Johann Karl Mertsching, who created Karl Scheibler Palace or the Alte Szil Synagogue, among other notable structures. In 1884, a major reconstruction of the building was conducted under the guidance of another chief architect of the city, Hilary Majewski. He added one more floor and side parts of the building. Another architect, Wiesław Lisowski, led the reconstruction of the magistrate's departments in 1924-1925. Then, the building was raised by one more floor, gained a classicist character and the inscription saying “magistrate” was added to the top of the front elevation. The magistrate started working in the building in 1915, in the first year of the First World War. The city authorities decided to move here because of the destruction of the City Hall as well as a growing need for more room for various departments. The authorities were operating in the building until 1942.

             During the Second World War, the building was seized by the Germans, who set up a propaganda archaeological museum here. Old photographs of the German museum show a gun turret located on the roof of the front building. The Square was also given a new name – Deutschland Platz – and the Tadeusz Kościuszko statue was destroyed.

             The building gained its current shape after the Second World War. At that time, two museums were housed here, and their collections were later merged into the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography in Łódź. Between 1959 and 1963, the building was adapted to the Museum’s needs, and the east wing on Pomorska Street was constructed. The design of the new part is similar to the former bakers’ stalls, which have been located here since 1873.

             The latest renovation, which was completed in 2021, was the biggest modernisation of the building in its history. The rooms hidden by the Museum’s courtyard and not visible from Freedom Square were reconstructed and enlarged. As a result of the renovation, the building gained new spaces adapted for accessibility: storage rooms for the Museum’s collections, conservation studios and education rooms. The courtyard was also redesigned. This investment helped us to increase the area dedicated to culture by 3,500 square metres.

             The main building (Building A) is also designated as a Historical Monument. The complex of museum buildings A, B and C is listed in the Registry of Cultural Property under No. A/373.

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