Polish Hunting Room at the Turn of the 19th Century is an exhibition arranged as a typical “man’s room” full of family keepsakes collected by generations of owners. Visitors have an opportunity to enjoy the atmosphere of the manors and palaces which ceased to exist long ago, destroyed by the agricultural reform of 1944. Today, they are almost instinctively identified with the most homely, vernacular things and perceived as the places where Polish traditions grew and developed. Hunting, as an element inseparably related with the culture and everyday customs of the old Republic, plays a leading role in the presentation. Hunting trophies attract the attention of visitors, who are particularly drawn to the most valuable and noticeable ones: the roe deer buck antlers of Nienadowa (1896), which were a record trophy worldwide until 1967, the red deer antlers of Mikulczyn (1907), which won Grand Prix at the Berlin exhibition in 1937, and the moose antlers of Samyczyn (1938), awarded with a gold medal. Exotic trophies from African safaris include the mighty horns of a Cape buffalo and elephant tusks, reminding one of sporting African expeditions, so fashionable at the turn of the 19th century.
The collection of firearms is also an important element of this exhibition, as it allows one to observe the history and development of various systems, starting from 17th century arquebuses with wheel locks, including guns with flint and piston locks, and ending with 20th century breech loaded needle rifles. Hunting firearms are an example of technical progress and structural innovations, but also of artistic value, due to their reliefs, inlays and precision engravings. It brings to mind the fine skills of the artisans of olden times: gunsmiths, goldsmiths and engravers.
The paintings decorating the room are works of famous Polish artists, including Juliusz and Wojciech Kossak, Michał Wywiórski, Ryszard Okniński and Kazimierz Pochwalski. Painted with ultimate connoisseurship and love of detail, they serve as excellent graphic sources of knowledge about hunting and old customs. They mostly feature hunting scenes, landscapes, portraits of animals and still life.
The uniform character of the room, related to hunting and broadly understood nature is additionally emphasised by animalistic sculptures – mostly bronze casts which perfectly convey not only the beauty and variety of the animal form, but also their emotions and character.
The crowded exhibition also includes a lot of small, seemingly humble items, such as badges of the first hunting societies, diplomas, photographs or handicraft items such as pipes, watches, cigar cases, glasses, silver and porcelain. However, even if difficult to notice at first glance, all of them form priceless evidence of the past era, emphasising the inseparable link between hunting, nature and history, so well presented in the Hunting Room.
Part 1 The Forest
Asked about their associations with the forest, visitors to our Museum most often speak about the silence, peace, relaxation, as well as the wild animals and bird song.
The Forest is an exhibition presenting all of the above elements. It presents the diversity of forest birds and mammals, including more common ones such as roe deer, wild boars, red deer, foxes and jays, which one can meet even during a short walk. Other animals presented at the exhibition require more effort if one wishes to observe them; these include wolves, lynx and eagles. Some of the animals, such as beavers and European bisons, used to be species on the verge of extinction, but now their population is on the climb. Many other interesting species hide among trees, arranged as a diorama. Visitors can spot a few owls, not only including the common tawny owl and barn owl, but also rare eagle owls, which are the largest of owls, and – the Eurasian pygmy owl, which is the smallest Polish owl. Another rare species is the short-toed eagle.
Tracking animals is an important skill for enthusiasts of wild nature; for this reason, we have prepared a collection of precisely rendered paw prints of more than twenty wild animals.
The exhibition also features hunting trophies, including red and roe deer antlers, both regular and malformed for various reasons (e.g. the “wigs”). Hunting trophies also include wild boar tusks.
Animal voices constitute an important element of the exhibition, including the voices of single species and whole forest choirs. With eyes closed, visitors can imagine for a moment the forest during red deer or wood grouse mating season or hear the call of a pack of wolves.
Part 2 The Forest
The ability to fly, common among birds, has been for hundreds of years inaccessible to man. Lengthy travel by air, not restricted by bogs, grand rivers and deserts, turned birds into symbols of unlimited freedom and liberty. Nowadays, when these values are appreciated better than ever, people show considerable interest in birds. In order to satisfy this, we have arranged our exhibition of Birds. In spite of limited exhibition space, we have managed to present a large part of the bird species living in Poland, dividing them by their habitat: forest, meadow, waters and bogs. Each of the groups of birds is represented by the most interesting and rare species or even species which have disappeared from Poland. These include ruffs – males of the species always differ slightly in colour, the beautiful purple heron, the red-footed kestrel, the red-crested pochard – a duck with a helmet of black feathers on its head, and the great bustard, one of the world’s heaviest flying birds, which disappeared from Poland in the mid-1980s. Other valuable items include five species of grebe, including the little grebe and black- necked grebe, as well as the stone curlew and great bittern. The last group treated as separate, not because of its habitat, but due to the manner of acquiring food, are birds of prey which hunt during the day. This group includes the common buzzard and hawk, and less frequently seen are the peregrine falcon and osprey. Corvine birds also constitute a separate group. It is educational to see them together, as visitors can compare the differences between a raven and a rook, a magpie, a crow and a jackdaw so that they may not be confused in the future.
Large colourful displays presenting the habitats of these groups of birds, as well as a computer encyclopaedia with bird descriptions and voices are important elements which contribute to the attractiveness of the exhibition.
This exhibition, presenting a marvellous collection of exotic animals from Africa, Asia, South and North America and Antarctica, has valuable cognitive and educational aspects and consists of more than 70 exhibits featuring typical and common species living on a given continent side by side with rare species threatened with extinction and placed on the Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.
The exhibition features animals living in three climatic zones: equatorial, moderate and subarctic. In addition to this, it also presents items of everyday use indispensable during long expeditions, as well as large size photographs showing characteristic African and Asian landscapes. A PC with a touch screen lets visitors enter the virtual world of nature. Sounds of the savannah or a tropical forest add to the attractiveness of the exhibition.
The core of the exhibition consists of a collection donated to the Polish nation by Roman Hubert Hupałowski (1905-1990). Hupałowski was born in Poland’s pre-war Eastern Borderlands, and was a judge at Złoczów Magistrates’ Court, in the Tarnopol Voivodeship. He was an enthusiastic hunter and an activist of the Małopolska Hunting Society. He fought during the war of 1939 and, after escaping from internment in Hungary, headed to the Soviet Union, where he was imprisoned in Lubyanka and in a gulag. He joined the 2nd Corps of the Polish Army and as a soldier went through Iran and Palestine to Italy, where he fought at Monte Cassino. He then became a member of the British Army, and in 1949, after demobilisation, he left for the United States.
Hupałowski’s hunting hobby turned into his profession, and he organised hunting tours worldwide. Among others, he participated in 26 hunting safaris in Africa. In addition to his interest in hunting, he was involved in the protection of animals and their habitat. He funded a painting of St. Hubertus, the patron saint of hunters, for a church in Warsaw at ul. Łazienkowska. A collection of exotic animals was delivered to Poland from the United State at his own cost. He had numerous medals and awards, including the Złom, the most prestigious hunters’ award in Poland.
Our ambition is to expand his collection with new, interesting exhibits. In the past, we purchased a bison medallion, and recently, a Nile crocodile of more than 3.5 m in length.
Work horses have disappeared from cities, there are less and less of them in the countryside, and the army has but one symbolic squadron. Carriages, harnesses and riding accessories are also slowly becoming historic items. However, historic items related to horses should be preserved. Modern accessories, although so practical, do not have the charm of handmade items and do not give us a feeling of the unique.
Until the mid-20th century, horse-drawn vehicles were the basic means of land transport. Until recently, every region of Poland had its characteristic local type of harness. Today, we have only sports carriages, which are strong and safe, but devoid of aesthetic qualities, as well as horse-drawn buggies which are often eclectic or completely lack style.
Original historic carriages are presented in but a few museums. The Mazowsze region had no collections of this type, and for this reason, the Museum of Hunting and Horsemanship decided to put them on display. In a short time, it acquired a dozen elegant carriages, ten of which came from the famous collection in Łańcut (including a landaulet, mylord, volante, volante buggy, buggy, jagdwagen and sleigh), in addition to its own coupé carriage as well as a landau from the Pszczyna collection. All these carriages, used at the turn of the 19th century, were manufactured by well-known and renowned European and Polish companies. In addition to these, the exhibition features horse riding and carriage accessories.
The presentation reminds us of carriage houses in noble and aristocratic manors. We had to resign from presenting typical farm carriages used by minor noblemen and rich peasants. Perhaps we will be able to spout them on display after expanding the presentation site.
The collection is exhibited in the Kubicki Stables. Its patron, Zbigniew Prus-Niewiadomski, was an expert on carriages and popularised horse driving trials. He never tired of trying to save Polish carriages from destruction and neglect caused by wars and lack of imagination. However, first of all, he was a charming, friendly person and a great friend of our Museum.
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