One of the most impressive and most important recent investments in Katowice has been the Silesian Museum on the site of the former Katowice Coal Mine, just north of the Rynek. Anchoring the city's 'Cultural Zone,' the incredible scope and quality of the museum's exhibits, combined with the museum’s innovative architecture and adaptation of the subterranean chambers of the former mine, make this one of the city's top attractions.
Approaching the Silesian Museum from the city centre, the first visible element is the former mine's prominent mine shaft hoist tower. There are dozens of such towers spread all over Silesia and many of them remain operational to this day. This particular mine shaft hoisted its last load of black diamonds in 1999 when the entire complex was closed for good after operating for 176 years and hauling over 120 million tonnes of coal. Today, this impressive steel structure has been adapted into an elevator-accessible viewing tower which offers spectacular views of Katowice and other close-lying Silesian suburbs (open dependent on weather conditions).
The next striking feature you will notice are the large transparent glass buildings that cover the entire expanse of terrain. Their presence offers a thoroughly modern counterpoint to the 18th century historical buildings which make up the rest of the museum’s exhibition space. There are six main ‘buildings’ (both old and new) that make up the Silesian Museum campus a few of which have yet to be opened to the public. The main entrance to the permanent exhibitions is in the largest of the glass buildings (marked "G" on the museum brochure).
Descending into the subterranean chambers of the Silesian Museum the impressive interiors open up before your eyes. The main museum is spread out over four underground levels and has a floor area of nearly 25,000 m², of which 6,000 m² is devoted to exhibition space (both permanent and temporary) - all of which has been adapted from the former tunnels, shafts and workshops of the Katowice Coal Mine. The entrance to the museum is on the -2 level.
VISITING THE SILESIAN MUSEUM
With four permanent exhibitions and several temporary ones happening at any one time, the Silesian Museum is offers a day's worth of cultural feasting! Realistically, it takes several visits to the Silesian Museum to properly see and process all of these fantastic exhibitions. The museum's temporary displays are usually covered in our events section, but can also be viewed on the museum's website here. Below, you can read about each of the permanent exhibitions of the Silesian Museum. All permanent exhibits at the Silesian Museum are subtitled in Polish, German and English.
Gallery of Polish Modern Art 1800-1945
An absolutely stunning collection of paintings by Polish and Silesian masters including Jan Matejko, Stanisław Wyspiański, Olga Boznańska and Józef Mehoffer. Wandering through the spacious galleries you quickly realise that there is an abundance of natural light illuminating the space and the function of the giant mysterious glass buildings up top becomes abundantly clear.
Gallery of Non-professional Art
(Galeria plastyki nieprofesjonalnej)
This gallery shows the amateur artistic movement in Upper Silesia in the second half of the 20th century, with paintings by artists associated with groups such as Gwarek 58, Bielszowice, Zabrze, and Grupa Janowska. These works beautifully express the life and direct experiences of the artist, describing their surroundings, work, relationships with loved ones, and references to key stories and memories. The aforementioned Gwarek 58 group include many artists who have been implicitly tied to the Katowice Coal Mine itself. The fantastical works of the so-called “Outsiders” are a favourite of ours. No wonder that Silesian artists touched upon topics specific to their region. This exhibition is perhaps the strongest expression of the Silesian identity that can be seen experienced in Katowice.
Gallery of Silesian Sacral Art
(Galeria śląskiej sztuki sakralnej)
Part of the program of the museum's permanent exhibitions that devoted to the history, culture and art of the region, the gallery of Silesian sacral art combines the collections of the Silesian Museum and the exhibits of the Archdiocesan Museum in Katowice, which were transferred to the museum as a long-term deposit in 2013. This collection presents the treasures that are Silesian sculpture, painting and artistic craftsmanship from the Middle Ages and the modern era. It not only includes the heritage of sacral art, whose Silesian origin has been confirmed and documented, but also objects of worship found in Upper Silesia that have not necessarily been created in the region.
The Light of History: Upper Silesia throughout the history
This excellent historical exhibition recounts the story of Upper Silesia from ancient times to the political-economic transformation of 1989. In the symbolically significant space of the former coal mine, the exhibit explores how Upper Silesia has been shaped by industrialisation, beginning with the steam machine set in motion in Tarnowskie Góry in 1788 (the first in mainland Europe!), and proceeds to tackle the complexities of Silesian identity, the rise of Polish national consciousness, eminent inhabitants of Silesia, major events during the Silesian Uprisings, the plebiscite, and the interwar and WWII years. The post-war trail follows major points such as the Upper Silesian Tragedy, the falsehood of Communism, social and demographic transformations, the Solidarity movement, martial law and the tragedy in the Wujek Coal Mine, and finally the decline of the Polish People’s Republic. Arguably the most informative and enjoyable historical exhibition we've ever visited, we strongly believe this one should be required viewing for every Silesian, Pole and indeed tourist that steps foot on Silesian soil. Don't skip it.
On the Trail of Tomek
(Na Tropie Tomka)
(separate ticket required: 14/9zł; family ticket 35zł)
This special educational space for families with young children is based on the classic Tomek series of young adult books by Alfred Szklarski. Following the character across five continents, kids can discover the rich traditions of distant cultures, as well as the flora and fauna of unknown nooks and crannies of the globe, while solving creative challenges.
In addition to the exhibits, you will also find a huge Silesian Library, a stylish Moodro Bistro & Cafe (located in building A), a wonderful souvenir shop, selling e.g. magnets, scarves, socks, bags with reproductions of paintings and catalogs, books, notebooks, cups, sweets.
Average visiting time: permanent exhibits only, 3hrs; all exhibits, 5hrs.