» Exhibitions » The history of lighting


The History of Lighting Department was established in 1977. It was created from the Paraffin Lamp Department, which existed from the beginning of the history of the museum. Originally, oil lamps and other devices connected with the work of Ignacy Łukasiewicz were gathered there. In the course of time other types of lamps were also collected. At the end of 2013 the museum owned 2779 exhibits, including 1149 archive exhibits. 

Paraffin lamps dominate among exhibits. The museum has the biggest collection in Europe. The paraffin lamps are different from the one invented in 1853 by Ignacy Łukasiewicz. All of the gathered lamps were produced between 1860 and 1950 in Austria, Germany, Hungary, France, England, USA and Poland. They represent successive stages of the development of the paraffin lamp.

The museum owns about 900 exhibits connected with lighting, including 625 complete paraffin lamps. They reflect artistic styles of the time they were produced at. The most glamorous are paraffin lamps produced in the second half of 19th and at the beginning of the 20th century. They are in different shapes and colours, are produced from different materials, using different techniques. 

Lamps used in industry and for street lighting represent another group. They run not only on oil or paraffin, but also on illuminating gas, natural gas, petrol, spirit and acetylene. They were used for lighting factories, streets, horse-drawn and motor vehicles, railway platforms and railway carriages. Heating facilities, like heaters and cookers also belong to this group.

The exhibition includes more than 370 candlesticks and lanterns dating back from the 17th century to the beginning of the 20th century. Church candle holders and candelabra, coming from Austria, Germany and the Duchy of Warsaw, distinguish themselves by the diversity of forms. There are also original Hanukkah lamps and menorah, used by Jews. 

Among exhibits we can also find valuable documents, especially those connected with the famous inventor Ignacy Łukasiewicz and early history of local oil industry. 

The most precious exhibits are presented at the permanent exhibition entitled "The History of Lighting". This exhibition chronologically presents different types of light sources, from fire, through torches, candles, oil and paraffin lamps to electric lamps. The collection of paraffin lamps, produced in the USA and in Europe is the core of the exhibition. Most of the exhibits are put in large display cabinets that match old barrel vaults. The exhibition is enriched by the interior arrangements from the turn of the 20th century.