The National Museum of Agriculture and Agri-Food Industry in Szreniawa
was set up in 1964. Its operation continues the tradition and mission of the Museum of Industry and Agriculture in Warsaw, destroyed in September 1939. In 1975, to mark the centennial of launch of the Museum of Industry and Agriculture in Warsaw, the Museum in Szreniawa obtained the status of a national museum. Until today, it has remained the only museum of agriculture of this stature in Poland and one of the few and largest ones in Europe. For 34 years, the Museum in Szreniawa was subordinate to the Ministry of Agriculture. Since 1998, it has been under the supervision of the Regional Assembly of Wielkopolska. Another change in the legal status of the Museum took place in 2005, when an amendment to the law on the organisation and operation of cultural activities made the Museum a joint responsibility of the Regional Government of Wielkopolska and Poland’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. The Museum in Szreniawa has 5 field branches: Museum of Milling and Water Equipment of Rural Industry in Jaracz, Natural History and Hunting Museum in Uzarzewo, Museum of Basketry and Hop Growing in Nowy Tomyśl, Prof. Ryszard Kostecki Heritage Park and Beekeeping Museum in Swarzędz, and the Museum of Meat Industry in Sielinko.
The tasks of the Museum include collecting, studying, protecting, and sharing its collections concerning the history of the countryside, agriculture and agri-food industry from across Poland. For more than 55 years of its operation, the Museum has collected over 22,000 exhibits documenting the achievements of several generations of inhabitants of Polish rural areas in terms of material and spiritual culture. The Museum’s collections address areas such as: technology, ethnography, history, art, and nature. They are classified in the following thematic groups: technology in agriculture, livestock husbandry (including veterinary medicine and animal treatment regimes), beekeeping, plant cultivation and horticulture, hop cultivation and wickerwork, transport and communication, food processing and agri-food industry, rural crafts, hunting and inland fishing, ethnography (home furnishings, folk costumes, folk art), history (banners, numismatics, medallist items, seals, archival records, posters), art (paintings, prints, sculptures, textiles), iconography (photographs, postcards, films).
As of 2002, the Museum has been the administrator of the neo-gothic tower, a former mausoleum of the Bierbaum family, now an observation deck. In 2004 and 2010, the Museum extended its property by two new exhibition pavilions donated by the Teresa and Adam Smorawiński Foundation in Natural History and Hunting Museum in Uzarzewo and a wooden barn building, donated in 2006 by the Polish Wickerwork Association to the Museum of Basketry and Hop Growing in Nowy Tomyśl. Ten years later, the Association donated to the Museum a roofed structure of almost eight hundred square meters. The above donations added over 2,000 square metres to the Museum premises and have been used for exhibition purposes. Between 2002 and 2008, the former farmstead manager’s house was renovated and a reception building was built. Some of the existing premises were converted into warehouses. This included a two-story air-conditioned building which now houses special collections. In 2007, the main pedestrian routes in the old section of the Museum were upgraded and restrooms fully accessible for persons with disabilities were created.
In the years 2008-2010, a project called “Regeneration and modernization of the Szreniawa Palace” was carried out, the aim of which was to carry out a complete overhaul of the palace building, dating back to the mid-19th century, and to adjust its interior to the Museum’s needs. The historic palace was renovated in order to create a museum exhibition illustrating the residence of a landowner from the 1920s and 1930s. Currently, the palace offers an educational program showing the everyday life of the manor’s residents, with particular emphasis on the culinary and family life from the period between the world wars. Between 2016 and 2018, the premises were adapted for the visually impaired.
In the years 2009-2011, a project called “Regeneration of the historical park of the former estate of Szreniawa” was carried out, whose aim was to restore the manor park from the 1920s and 1930s. For this purpose, an exhibit showcasing energy sources in agriculture as well as water supply to villages and treadmills (including several wooden objects) was transferred from the park area to the manor house, which offered room for planting numerous trees, bushes and flowers.
Furthermore, in the years 2010-2012, another project was undertaken as part of the task “Reconstructing the 19th-century layout of the manor house in the Museum in Szreniawa in response to the museum and educational needs of the society”. The task was implemented under the Wielkopolska Regional Operational Programme for 2007-2013.
The project was substantially related to the strategic area of the National Strategy for Cultural Development for the years 2004-2013 – protection of cultural heritage, including protection and restoration of historical monuments – preservation for future generations of the characteristic element of the Wielkopolska village – the manor farm. The aim of the project was to expand the cultural and educational offer addressed to a wide audience (children, adults, multigenerational families). The project was implemented within the framework of the Development Strategy of Wielkopolska Region until 2020 and assumes providing the inhabitants with conditions to raise the standard of living through education, culture and tourism and created conditions for social self-organisation. Moreover, the project was consistent with the Development Strategy of the Komorniki Commune. Within the framework of the project, the cowshed building was reconstructed for the needs of conservative breeds of farm animals, a shelter was built to exhibit harvesting agricultural machinery, and the newly created gable rooms of the shelter were converted to house a smithy and a wheelwright’s workshop. In the final stage of the project in 2014, permanent museum exhibits were mounted. Showcasing eight thematic issues, they illustrate the history of agricultural technology and agri-food processing.
In the 2015-2016 period, resources from the Regional Environmental Protection Fund were used to implement the project “Thermal insulation of the Museum’s main administration building for a Reserve Workplace of the Marshal of the Wielkopolska Region”.
As part of the protection of the architectural heritage of the agri-food industry, the Museum has restored the building of a historic farm distillery dating back to the early 20th century. The task was carried out in several stages. In 2009, the project “Regeneration and adaptation of the former distillery building” was implemented within the framework of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage Operational Programme “Development of cultural infrastructure”. The aim of the task was to restore the original appearance of the historic building and protect it from further degradation by reconstructing and renovating roofs, chimneys, the façade and by replacing window and door joinery. In 2011, another stage of the project was commenced, consisting in the reconstruction of the building interior. For this purpose, the original premises of the distillery were recreated and the facility was adapted for exhibition and production purposes. Equipment for a mini-brewery and a micro-distillery was purchased and installed. The regeneration and adaptation of the historic distillery building for museum purposes made it possible to expand educational and exhibition activities and make them more attractive. On the first floor of the building, a former apartment of the distillery manager, a tax inspection office and the distillery laboratory were restored. On the ground floor, a gallery of posters fighting alcohol abuse and exhibitions “From the history of the Szreniawa distillery” and “Working at the distillery and preparing for the profession” were created. A mini-brewery with a tasting room is a unique attraction. In the near future, a micro-distillery will be launched.
An extremely important investment project for the further development of the Museum, especially in terms of improving the conditions of storage and exhibition of the historical objects, was the 2016-2019 project entitled “Modernization of exhibition pavilions, permanent exhibitions and collection warehouses of the National Museum of Agriculture and Agri-Food Industry in Szreniawa”. Being part of the Wielkopolska Regional Operational Programme for 2014-2020, the project involved a comprehensive modernization of 10 exhibition pavilions with a total area of about 3,500 square meters of exhibition space and the permanent museum exhibitions installed there as well as two warehouses for museum and library collections, with a total storage area of ca. 3,000 square meters. The task has led to the modernisation of the following permanent exhibits: “History of Polish Agriculture until the 20th c.”, “Rural Crafts”, “Food Processing and Agri-food Industry”, “Plant Cultivation”, “Fodder Studies”, “Animal Treatment Methods and Veterinary Science”, “Farm Animal Breeding and Husbandry”, “Insemination”, “History of Rural Transport”, “The Museum of the Tarpan Pickup”. The modernisation involved the furnishing of the exhibition pavilions, light arrangement in the exhibits, their visual layout and signage and adjustment for persons with visual impairments. Moreover, high-tech sliding racks were installed in the library warehouse and multi-level racks were mounted in the museum items storage facility.