Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Winona's Polish Museum

This past weekend I visited friends in Winona, MN, and they made an opportunity for me to visit the Polish museum there. This museum's collection is largely objects, books, and photographs people brought with them when they immigrated from Poland.

The people who came here are largely Kashubian, and Winona has a sister city relationship with Bytow which is one of the unofficial capitals of Kashubia. In the mid-19th century workers were recruited to come to this area to work in the lumber industry. Areas of the Minnesota territory were covered with forest. As the trees were cut, the logs were floated down the Mississippi to the lumber mills in Winona.

The museum is housed in a re-purposed warehouse building.

The artisan work for the remodeling of the warehouse includes this fine work in the floor.

 The connection to the lumber industry is maintained with this fine fireplace.

 This fireplace comes from the President's office from one of the large lumber companies.

Here's a nice view of one of the rooms in the museum.

Here are some objects that caught my eye.

Someone's lovely old books. (Sorry for the light reflection in the display cases. Did the best I could.)

Above is a sample of Kashubian embroidery.

This is a chest made by an immigrant family to bring their medicines to the United States. Seeing it alone doesn't give you a perspective about size. Think large lunch box for the size.

The above photo is far from good, but the best I could do of a painting such as I've not seen before. The flag has dates written on each of its panels that tells one this is about the Partition of Poland. The caption on the painting best translates to Poland in Leg Irons (Chains). Certainly this was a treasured object of some immigrant to the United States, and I'm glad it now is in a safe place.

The museum holds many small banners and medals for Polish cities. I picked this for a photo because one day, much to my surprise, I found myself in Nowy Targ.
And of course one thing that would have been packed for the trip to America is a special vest and blouse. The sign on this exhibit said the vest is of the style from Poznan and the blouse is Kashubian.

The museum also has some old maps. Our visiting party included another woman from Winona who was born in Poland. We found a Polish map displaying post-World War I Poland. She was able to show me the area in which she lived as a child. This area now is in Belarus. Over lunch she shared her memories of the start of World War II when she was six years old and her memories of living in Warsaw during Uprising when she as 10 years old. I'm very blessed to be trusted with these memories and insights.

Hope you enjoy this little bit of Polish immigrant history.

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