Since its restoration, the Silesian Museum has been gathering
photographs to form an independent collection. The original idea was to create
an iconographic record of the history and culture of Upper Silesia. Gradually,
together with old photographs, professional contemporary photographic material
of high artistic and documentary value has been acquired. Sections of
photographs are organised around a given theme or by a particular author.
The collection, dating back as far as the mid-19th century, including the oldest daguerreotypes, continuing up to the present, consists of 35,000 pictures , among them nearly 12,500 archival photographs: positive copies (8,500), glass negative and celluloid copies (4,000).
The collection as a whole (although associated not only with
Silesia), chiefly reflects the changing fortunes of the Silesian people, a
multicultural aspect of the society resulting from both historical changes and
the resultant migrations. Here one can follow the development of Silesia, its
significance in a larger European context, its economic growth and also
degradation of the environment.
Within the collection, there are several thematic sections. One of them documents historical events starting from World War I, to the uprisings and the Plebiscite in Upper Silesia, up to the recent political transformation in Poland during the 1980s.
Another section focuses on the photography of manners as well as social photography and illustrates the evolution of the civilization and culture of various social groups inhabiting our region. It registers both social and family events covering the whole spectrum of human life – beginning with baptisms and first communion ceremonies, through school years, weddings and funerals.
In the section of ethnographic photography , our attention is drawn to the collection of 649 glass and celluloid negatives made by Mieczysław Gładysz. This collection was created during the interwar period as a result of field studies investigating the highlanders’ culture of the Beskid Śląski mountains. Pictures of diversified landscapes, towns and monuments are shown in the architectural and urban photography section.
Then we pass on to an interesting portrait photography section,
where the oldest pictures go back to around 1850. They depict a whole gallery of
people coming from different corners of ancient Poland, pictured in the oldest
photographic studios operating in its lands. They constitute a rich source of
information about manners and the society of that time. They also serve as a
resource for researchers to plumb the historical mysteries of photography.
During the years of its operation, the Silesian Museum has developed and compiled its own photographic documentation. It constitutes a separate collection of more than 25,000 items.
The newly established collection of artistic photography presents works of numerous prominent representatives of Silesian artistic circles.