The beginnings of the Archaeological Museum in Pozań date back to the second half of the nineteenth century, when Greater Poland, similarly to the whole Europe, witnessed a rapid increase in the interest in antiquity, including archaeology. At the same time, the partitions forced Poles to establish various civic associations, which supported Polish culture, science, and economy on behalf of the former state. This role – a patron of Polish science and culture – was played by the Poznań Society of the Friends of Sciences established in 1857.
On 23 September 1857, the Museum of Polish and Slavic Antiquities in the Grand Duchy of Poznań was established at the Society. In 1882, it changed its name to the Mielżyński Museum in recognition of a great contribution of Counts Mielżyński to its development. The Museum collected various national souvenirs, e.g. archaeological finds acquired both from donors and from archaeological excavations.
The seats of the Museum and the Society were: Raczyński Library (1857-1870), Hotel Bazar (1870-1882), and later the building located at Młyńska Street (now Mielżyńskiego Street).
The museum collections were cared for by conservators (the equivalents of today’s curators). These functions were performed successively by: teacher Maksymilian Studniarski (1858-1860), teacher Albin Gorecki (1860-1866), lawyer and journalist Władysław Wierzbiński (1866-1868), teacher and writer Hieronim Feldmanowski (1868-1882), Klemens Kantecki (1882-1885), historian, philologist Bolesław Erzepki (1885-1923) and specialist in prehistory Józef Kostrzewski (1914 - 1923).
In the first years of the Museum's existence, Leon Wegner, the Society’s secretary, also played a significant role in the development of the museum. Already at the end of the 19th century, the Mielżyński Museum had the largest archaeological collection of scholarly societies operating in the contemporary Prussian state. Such a good result was obtained mainly thanks to the support of Polish landowners and clergy, many of whom donated their private archaeological finds to the museum.
Members of the Society of Friends of Sciences participated in archaeological research, thus enlarging the museum’s collection. Among the acquired artefacts were unique objects, such as, for example, oxen from Bytyń dating to the early Bronze Age, or items from sites examined according to the highest research standards of the time (e.g. materials from Manieczki explored by Antoni Białecki in 1858). In order to achieve the highest possible scientific level, the Archaeological Commission was established at the Society (from 1885 renamed the Archaeological Section). Although it operated periodically, it became a centre of exchange of ideas, inspiring its members to undertake excavations and publish their results. The most well-known members of this commission at the beginning of its existence were Antoni Białecki and Kazimierz Szulc, and later also Władysław Jażdżewski and Hieronim Feldmanowski. Following the establishment of the Section in 1885, it was attended by Klemens Koehler, Romuald and Bolesław Erzepki, Władysław Łebiński, Wincenty Zenkteller, Augustine Kalk, Ignacy Zakrzewski and Albin Węsierski. Many of those scholars contributed greatly to the development of archaeological research in Greater Poland and supported the Museum with their private collections.
The article was published in Archeological Museum in Poznan. History and the present day, ed. Maciej Przybył.
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