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icon In 1916 the Museum of fine Arts in Warsaw, set up on the strength of the May 20th 1862 Law on Public Education in the Kingdom of Poland, was renamed National Museum in Warsaw. At the time the museum was based in 15 Podwale Street. In 1926 the construction of the museum's current seat in Aleje Jerozolimskie began. In 1932 an exhibition of decorative art was opened in the two earliest erected wings of the new building, the whole of which was officially inaugurated on 18 June 1938. Credit for the rank of the National Museum, preserved in spite of the dramatic war years and the vicissitudes of the recent history, goes to the first two directors, Bronislaw Gembarzewski (in office till 1935) and Stanislaw Lorentz (in office in 1935-1981).

icon At present, the collection of the National Museum in Warsaw includes 780 000 items displayed in permanent galleries (the Gallery of Ancient Art, the Professor Kazimierz Michalowski Faras Gallery, the Primate Stefan Wyszynski Gallery of Mediaeval Art, the Gallery of Foreign Painting, the Gallery of Polish Painting, the Gallery of 20th-century Polish Art and the Gallery of Polish Decorative Art) and many temporal exhibitions; numerous sets of items are stored in special collections accessible to the public on request in special reading-and-seeing rooms (print and drawing rooms, Photographic and Iconographic Collection, Coin and Medal Room) and repositories. The museum boasts the largest Polish scholarly library of art catalogues, art history books, books on the cultures of almost all over the world, and a fine collection of old maps and prints.

icon 1995 marked the beginning of the reorganization of the National Museum. The traditional prewar names of museum units were reintroduced and the Sculpture Collection was organized anew. The Faras Gallery has given rise to the new Collection of East Christian Art, also embracing Byzantine art.

icon The opening of new permanent galeries, the Gallery of European Decorative Art and a reorganized Gallery of Ancient Art, is planned for 1997. A comprehensive plan for the enlargement of the museum and a new arrangement of its galleries is being prepared, implying that the National Museum in Warsaw has entered a difficult transition period. Let us hope that the result will be a more interesting and a more modern institution cultivating a tradition developed for a century and a half.

(D. F.-J.)


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