THE HEADQUARTER OF THE DISTRICT MUSEUM IN LESZNO
The District Museum in Leszno is one of the oldest museums in Wielkopolska. Its headquarter is located in two separate historic buildings dating from the 18th and 19th centuries: the main museum is at 17 J. Metzig Square, the second site is the building of the former Synagogue at 31 Narutowicza Street which is called The Art Gallery.
For more than fifty years the Museum has been promoting the history and the culture of Leszno and the south–west of Wielkopolska. It has highlighted the multi-cultural past of the region, which can be seen in the examples of historic architecture on display. Other objects are also on display. As a
result of this role as a collector, exhibitor and educator, the Museum has contibuted to the spread of the regional culture and traditions of Leszno. It has organised educational programmes, courses, competitions and other forms of tuition relating to the history of the region. It has co-operated with
other Polish museums and exhibited its collections all over Poland. We are proud of this contribution.
Leszno was a strong cultural centre as early as in the 17th century and like other towns it had many valuable collections. They were stored mostly by private collectors or in local churches and acquired an archival and museum character. Over the course of time they were often moved from place to place and did not always survive intact to the present day, which is why many are only fragments.
The beginning of the museum dates back to 1949, when the Museum of Leszno Town Culture of the 17th and 18th centuries was created by the Town Council of Leszno. In December of that year the Museum was registered as a national museum and was opened on 1st January 1950 – thus the District Museum in Leszno was created. It was first supervised by the Wielkopolskie Museum in Poznań, which became a National Museum, and its administrative centre was the Leszno Town Hall.
Following decentralization in 1958, the Museum was supervised locally – by the Town Council and its administrative centre was no longer in the town hall. There was no warehouse in Leszno for the exhibits, so they were moved to Rogalin, but after a short period of time, they were taken back to Leszno and stored in the former library of St Cross Church. At the beginning of 1963, a permanent exhibition of the history of the Leszno region from the late 18th century was inaugrated in the building of the former pastor’s lodgings at No.17, Metzig Square. The building was redecorated and became the permanent site and administrative centre of the museum. The collection of exhibits has continued to grow. The storeroom was now too small for all these items, so the Presidium of the Urban National Council acquired more room in the building next to the museum, No. 16. The main items now on display cover the history of the region but deal also with its art and ethnography.
When Leszno became a province, the Museum was elevated to a regional museum and widened its interest to include the whole Province. As a result of its new responsibility, it took charge of more than thirty museums and regional locations in the Province.
THE ART GALLERY OF THE DISTRICT MUSEUM IN LESZNO
In 1993, in a renovated, 19th century building of the former pre-funeral house, located on the previous Jewish cementery (nowdays - Jan Paweł Avenue), the Judaism Department was created.
For this initiative, which was organized entirely out of state financial resources, the museum received an honourable award by the Ministry of the Culture for the most interested museum-event in 1993.
In the same year 1993, the Professed Jewish Communal Association of the Republic of Poland agreed in writting on taking over the former local synagogue and organizing there the art gallery of Polish painting devoted to the country. A particular renovation and conservation took place there, the works finished on may 2006r.
Since 1st January 1999, due to administrative reform in Poland, the museum has become an institiution subordinated to the Seym of Wielkopolska Province.
The District Museum in Leszno for many years makes efforts for the spreading the Jewish culture. These activities do not limit themselves only to minding the material heritage left by citizens of Leszno of the Jewish origin. The Jewish subject matter passes also across temporary organized exhibitions in the museum. In 2005 this was the exposition entitled „Our older brother- the painting, the drawing and the graphics” from crops of the Jewish Historic Institute in Warsaw. In 2004 - graphices and pictures about the Jewish subject matter were put out by Lila Fijałkowska, the graduate of the Art School in Moscow. But the exhibition entitled „Great Poland rabbies in the circle of the Jewish tradition” from 2002 brought closer the successes of the Jewish thought, both in the sphere of philosophical investigations, theological and historic.
The Leszno synagogue is acknowledged as an oldest kept synagogue on the ground of Wielkopolska. The meaning of the temple is connected not only with its age, but it results first of all from the fact that this was the main synagogue and the most important Jewish commune in Wielkopolska in the 18 th century and half of the 19 th century. Leszno then became the centre of Jewish communes in Wielkopolska, taking the primacy of the priority the deteriorating Poznań commune. It appeared among other things in the dependence from Leszno Jewish community of 36 Jewish Great Poland communes, both in respect of financial and organizational matter.
The history under many consideration was kind for the Leszno synagogue.When in the 19th century the tendency was generally to demolish old Jewish synagogues, replacing them with new buildings, the Leszno synagogue survived, because the condition. In 1905 the reconstruction of the temple was finished and in this form the object survived the period of the World War II, and also the 50 following years waiting for the adaptation. The Leszno synagogue became registered of ancient monuments only in 1991. Like this exceptional in the scale of all Wielkopolska the object gained respect.
In 1993 began the repair of the object, wanting to adapt it on museum-aims. 2 Milion złotych was spent on the repairs. In 1999 the repair was suspended. A reason were possessional pretensions of the Management the Religious Jewish Commune in Wrocław, notified on the ground new affranchisement regulations from the year 1997. The disagreement about the ownership lasted several years. At last the Council of the Province Wielkopolskiego decided about the payment of the indemnity the Jewish populace which at last relinquished the right of property to the object.
The engagement of authorities of the province into this undertaking both essential and financial brought to the favourable end of the repair of the Leszno synagogue. This opened the new stage in cultural and social life in Leszno. Being administratively the part of the District Museum in Leszno the synagogue gives the possibility of better exhibiting of crops during temporary exhibitions, and also permits prosperously to bring interesting expositions from all country. The object is one of rare in the region, on the basis of which can be led the various cultural activity.
The synagogue is the biggest attraction in the Wielkopolska. Perfect in the scale of the all country the valorization synagog gave the Leszno object 11 points out of 12. The synagogue in Leszno outdistanced only three similar objects in the country: in Tykocin, Łęcznej and Cracow. The attention also deserves the fact that without changing the external block of the object it succeeded to adapt the space used originally for sacral aims on connected aims with the museum-activity exhibitions, conference, training, perform aims.
The building of the former synagogue had become adapted to present users. The structure of the object was kept, and his functions remained extended. The technical subsidiaries was adapted to the needs of handicapped people. The concert hall and smaller rooms can be prosperously use for the purpose of the organization of entertainments about the diverse character beginning from concerts, on conferences, exhibitions, trade fair publishing- and smaller instructions finishing. The location of the object within the framework of Leszno Old Town is an additional benefit which other towns do not possess. After repairing the elevation of the external synagogue this object became the most representative building of Leszno Old Town.