The exhibition "Amber - Its Beauty and History" outlays the basic concepts about amber to visitors. Amber is the organic mineral of highest frequency of occurrence in Poland, and it has been used in ornament production for centuries. Beauty of amber - presented predominantly as a combination of blocks showing basic v a r i e t i e s and smaller, cut exhibits contrasted with examples of contemporary art - is a kind of introduction to the history of amber.
Raw amber together with a picture of reconstruction of the amber forest are the main theme of the exhibition. They were prepared exclusively on the basis of a catalogue of amber plant inclusions to the pot of amber articles from archaeological excavations.
In the last 40 million years of the Earth history amber has been travelling in nature without human intervention: from sticky resin in Fennoscandia forests, to a lump found on the Baltic seashore. It travelled in rivers, with sand, gravel and slime to the Eocen sea. It was deposited on the Northern edge of the sea, in the Paleogene Gdańsk delta (previously known as the Chłapowo-Sambia delta) - the largest amber deposit on Sambian Peninsula (Russia), which is still used. In the last million of years, the ice sheet and rivers originating from it have moved (redeposited) part of the deposit to the South where amber can be found in the drift clay of the Northern Poland, in the sandy pike perches of the Kurpiowkie region, river valley sediment in Kaszuby and in contemporary rivers of the Polish lowland. The last stage of amber travels - from the same forest "as it was in the beginning", and from the same delta, which was carved out by the hypothetical Eridan river and which had been exploited by the ice earlier - are the present day Baltic sea beaches. The sea which came into existence merely 8,000 years ago.
Similar story happened on the Southern edge of the old Eocen sea. Similar deposits were created there, in which we can find amber from forests growing in the area called the Ukrainian shield by geologists. The deposits in the Klesow area in Western Ukraine are well known, and in Poland there is amber accumulation the amber Parczew delta (in Lubartowski district) that should be mined.
The exhibition also features amber products: from excavation, through folk art objects, to the post-war period collections in the "What We Used to Wear Long in the Old Age" department.
There are only few collections from the post-war period - and it's to early for them to appear on auctions, but at the same time they are too old to be noticed in everyday life. They were created by artists and craft masters who are especially important for the amber treatment history. The products by the late, still missed, Maria Lewicka-Wala will certainly be interesting for the inhabitants of Cracow. Ms Lewicka-Wala was considered to be the precursor of the natural form trend in jewellery.
The exhibition ends with a small collection of fossil and sub-fossil resins of the world which represent other fossil resin t y p e s to Baltic amber, and in different countries they are called amber. Over a hundred of resins occurring in deposits from different periods (from late Jurassic to about 150 million years ago) have been discovered so far. They are treated, and some of them are used in jewellery. They appear both as natural jewellery stones, and noble imitations of amber. Apart from the usable and decorative role they are also of great significance to science, as well as being highly coveted by collectors.
The properties of Baltic amber, presented in by text, photographs and exhibits constitute an additional theme. I hope that this educational fragment will be interesting to school kids and teenagers, though adults can also systematise their knowledge about amber - the organic mineral which is so strongly connected with Polish culture and art.
A presentation of a large part of the collection connected with amber exhibitions organised in Poland and abroad, which has been accumulated for years in the Earth Museum, is an interesting complement to the exhibition.
The exhibition of the collection by the Earth Museum by the Polish Academy of Sciences and examples of contemporary art from Tomasz Mikołajczyk collection, held in the Amber Museum in Cracow, has been prepared on the basis of many years of its author's experience, as well as the whole team of the organisers. We are hoping that the exhibition will be interesting to tourists and Cracow inhabitants alike. Private museums by galleries, in which one can learn something, as well as buy jewellery decorated with amber, are created also outside Poland. In Cracow, there is also a possibility to examine amber at the Amber Laboratory, and the result of the examination will determine whether a product was made of Baltic amber or a different k i n d of resin.
Autor: Prof. dr hab. Barbara Kosmowska-Ceranowicz