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The Light of History. Upper Silesia over the Ages

The exhibition pprocesses resented on the site of the former Katowice coalmine, which witnessed and participated in the most essential events and historical for almost two hundred years, contains the story of Upper Silesia since the earliest times until 1989, the times of the system transformation. What did Silesia, with its changing rulers, look like in the past? In what way did the development of the cities take place, to which people speaking various languages came to pursue trade and craft, to farm and lay the foundations for the future industrial power of the region?

The 1364 square metres exhibition space presents how Silesia became the bridge between the East and the West, an arena of acute political and religious conflict, as well as a place where cultural and intellectual life flourished. Great changes took place here only in the late 18th century, when steam machine reached Silesia from England, together with the industrial revolution, which allowed for the mass exploitation of natural resources. This was the onset of industrial and metropolitan Silesia, so much different from the neighbouring lands.

The exhibition demonstrates how the circumstances and historical events – those major and minor ones – shaped the region and the people living here, how the social consciousness was formed and in what political circumstances new issues emerged – the questions of national and religious identity. We reveal processes which led to the exacerbation of nationalisms, bring to the memory the moment of Polish national identity stirring to life and developing, the period of extensive autonomy, the attitudes towards World War II and the transformations taking place after 1945 and in the 1980s.

The exhibition poses no simple questions and does not give easy answers. Seeing it, learning the facts, deciphering and interpreting the emotions locked in history, the viewer must independently seek knowledge about the emergence of the phenomenon of this multicultural region full of contradictions and about the elements composing its unique identity – the factors which posed new challenges for the land and its inhabitants. Also, about the directions in which the ‘light of history’ will lead us...


The exhibits presented come from archeological, ethnological and historical collections. The archeological findings, placed in a separate part of the exhibition, document the most ancient history of the region. Each of them tells some stories which, combined, give a more complete view of the region.

Figure of Saint Anne with Mary and Child, Siemianowice Śląskie, the interwar period, bisque, glass
According to the tradition, the sculpture venerated at St. Anne Mountain contains relics of Jesus’ grandmother. St. Anne Mountain is one of the most important religious sites in Upper Silesia, visited both by Polish and German pilgrims.
Exhibition curators: Jarosław Racięski, Krystyna Pieronkiewicz-Pieczko