The ground floor of the east wing
In the basement of the east wing of the Middle Castle there is a permanent amber exhibition entitled: Amber contexts. It is a spacious, low interior covered with a cross vault on the buttresses. In the Middle Ages it served as a warehouse.
Baltic amber is a resin fossilized millions of years ago, which has fascinated people for centuries. The Amber Contexts exhibition shows the richness of natural forms and colors of living stone as well as utility items and jewelry made of it.
The aim of the exhibition is to present the amber collection collected by the Castle Museum since its establishment in 1961. The 50th anniversary of the museum has become an impulse to look at the amber collections from a new perspective. The way we perceive museum exhibitions is undoubtedly influenced by contemporary culture – for example, how amber is presented in galleries, jewelry stores, or how it is used to promote the region. Therefore, it is necessary to take into account various contexts, confront historic works with the latest acquisitions and new technology.
The Malbork amber collection, known and shown many times around the world, is presented in a modern arrangement supplemented with multimedia. We are introduced to the atmosphere of the exhibition by an animation showing an amber forest from around 40 million years ago. The laser light then guides the visitor through a timeline showing the geological changes that led to the formation and movement of amber. In this part of the exhibition, the viewer has the opportunity to admire natural amber specimens and inclusions – that is, the remains of plants and animals embedded in resin. In subsequent rooms, there will be graphic explanations, comments, as well as info kiosks that allow you to deepen the knowledge on the selected topic using text and images.
The context of the place is important for the exhibition – both the place where amber is made, its processing and, finally, the exhibition. The history of Baltic amber is inextricably linked with the area around the present Gdańsk Bay. It was here that it was created in the distant Eocene epoch, gathered underground, and then, since the Neolithic times, it was processed and used for the production of utility items, mainly ornaments. The history of the castle in Malbork – the capital of the Teutonic state, and later the residence of Polish kings, is closely related to amber. In the Middle Ages, amber became the source of the Order’s commercial power. At that time, amber was used mainly for rosaries, but also reliefs and figural sculptures. The medieval candlestick of Queen Sophia with an amber Madonna figure, probably a gift from Grand Master Konrad von Jungingen, will be brought to the exhibition at the museum in Bratislava.
In modern times, amber became a favorite material of craftsmen who made luxury items – small sculptures, goblets, caskets, and altars. The Malbork collection is famous for its unique amber masterpieces that previously belonged to Polish kings – Stanisław Leszczyński and Stanisław August Poniatowski. There are also artefacts made by outstanding artists active in Gdańsk, incl. by Michel Redlin or Christoph Maucher. The exhibition also presents works from foreign museums, incl. Jacob Dobbermann’s goblet from The Hunterian Museum in Glasgow, or a collection of amber items from the former collection of the zu Dohn family from Słobit, currently kept in Berlin. The presentation of contemporary amber products is equally important. The amber industry is one of the promoters of the Polish economy in the world. Artists working with amber create very diverse works, and many of them impress with their perfection of workmanship, modern form and conceptual intention. They are works of art. Amber products, previously associated with mass production, thanks to talented designers and high-quality workmanship, become a synonym of good design. The most interesting examples of contemporary jewelry, presented at the exhibition, alongside art from the past centuries, are to encourage reflection on the unique richness of amber products that people have been creating for millennia.
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