A typical problem of any museum is that their collections are constantly building up, which stems from their obvious mission – the collecting of artefacts. As museum collections build up, the storage space fills up.
The space used by the Historical Museum of Krakow is not proportional to the amount of artefacts it stores (almost 200,000 items). Today, the collections of the Historical Museum of Krakow are stored in the temporarily closed theatre branch and the edifice of the Primary School at ul. Stanisława ze Skalbmierza.
In 2008 and 2009, a preliminary redevelopment concept for the building was created, and this was followed by a construction design. Architectural Studio PLAN-PROJEKT-ART delivered full project documentation, developed with a view to convert the existing building to meet the needs of the Historical Museum of Krakow.
Conversion of the venue consists in elevating the roof and adding a 400 m2 basement to enlarge the usable floor area of the building. The architectural design provided that all construction works will result in delivering 2000 m2 of storage space, conservator workshops and a photo lab.
While developing interior design guidelines, an idea was proposed to incorporate a “contact with visitors” component in the use of the storehouse. The storage venue, conservator workshops included, is by rule an internal museum unit inaccessible to outsiders, save for those pursuing museology-related careers. A consequence of this model is that most collections remain hidden in storehouses, and so visitors are unable to see the collections. As most museum collections are hidden in museum storehouses, the failure to utilise their educational and cognitive potential may be deemed as “cultural heritage mismanagement”.
In this light, the Historical Museum of Krakow resolved to develop a venue specifically for storage purposes that will enable visitors to see the artefacts.
With this idea in mind, in 2011, the design firm ARCHISSIMA delivered a conceptual interior design that has served as a basis for EC Fussion Studio to produce a final design, under development since May 2012 up to now. By opening to the visitor, the building will gain such facilities as a meeting room, a multimedia room, a café and a reception desk. The design envisages multiple access zones – a marked-out route for visitors and zones accessible only to staff members.
The collections will be made available to visitors by means of custom-designed storage furniture with large glazed surfaces and by marking out a limited and properly protected visitation route in the largest storage part in the basement and by means of a glazed corridor at the conservator workshops on the second floor. In the basement, visitors will see a collection of Krakow nativity scenes put in glazed cases as well as crafts and furniture. The basement will also have a multimedia room, where visitors can utilise the results of the collection digitalisation programme implemented by the Historical Museum of Krakow over the last two years. The basement section will offer a meeting room and a 30-person conference room designed to host workshops and speeches.
The meeting room will house a 19th-century-style exhibition consisting of paintings mounted close to each other. The whole interior will be historically stylised.
In the basement, there will also be a small café, an indispensible element of a visitor-friendly and relaxing place in today’s world. It is also worth mentioning that the design embraces the idea of mixing different uses of rooms, e.g. by exhibiting a part of the collections in the café and the meeting room. The ground-floor zone that will be made available to visitors will include a storage space for numismatic items, arms and graphic art. The first floor will include a storage space for textiles and paintings.
The adopted interior decor principles envisage that the atmosphere in the storage spaces will be created by means of wall coverings and overprints. It is an approach combining stage design and interior decor solutions that will help the museum to build an ambiance corresponding to the collections stored there. This is also the aim of individual names – the graphic art storage space will be called the “Old Library”; the storage space for arms – “Arsenal”; the numismatic storage space – “Treasury”; the textiles storage space – “The Cloth Shop” and “Grandma’s Wardrobe”.
The impossibility of showing some collections (e.g. graphic art, photographs and textiles) or the possibility to show only some of these calls for adding stage-design elements that will highlight the character of a specific interior while at the same time softening its technical storage aspect.
Such solutions vary depending on the type of interior.
- In the arms storage space – “Arsenal” – this role is played by a brick-like wall covering, perfect as a background for old weapons due to its historical associations.
- In the textiles storage space – “The Cloth Shop” and “Grandma’s Wardrobe” – this role is played by overprints, patterns and embroidery on the walls as well as furniture, which all allude to the museum collections.
- In the graphic art and photography storage space – “Old Library” – this role will be played by overprints on furniture and the use of appropriate interior colours.
- In the paintings storage space, this role will be played by a large-size overprint showing a reproduction of a specific painting.
- In the numismatic storage space – “Treasury” – and the storage space for nativity scenes, the very structure of the furniture and the possibility of showing the collections make additional interior decor features unnecessary – the very artefacts exhibited will play the role of interior decor elements.
To summarise, the idea of visitors’ interpretations of the collections is based on two kinds of communication. The first one is information-based, presenting facts and knowledge and using visual communication and multimedia databases as its media. The other is emotional, based on sensual communication and aimed at triggering certain associations and moods. This kind of communication consists in designing the proper space, lighting, applying the proper materials and visual motifs covering the walls and furniture.
To commence implementation of the project (for which applicable construction permits have already been granted) as soon as possible, the Museum needs to raise more funds. The full cost of the project is estimated at PLN 10 million. In 2010, the building was fenced off, the property around the building was tidied up – the bushes and other plants were removed and earthworks conducted. In autumn 2012, a competition was launched for development of the basement section of the venue, including an external staircase and an elevator shaft to be added. As a result of the competition, in February 2011, a contract for construction works was signed with Stambud. On the 15th of November, the first construction stage was completed. In September 2012, a competition was conducted for the provision of construction works to elevate the roof, reinforce the ceilings, provide water and sewage system connections as well as storm water drainage connections and the rerouting of power cables. As a result of this competition, a contract was signed, and the works are scheduled for commencement in September 2013.