Ards, mortars, sickles…. – in a farmstead of old.

The exhibition shows the tools and equipment used for growing, storing, and processing grains in historic farms in Podlaskie. Mainly dating back the end of the 19th to the mid-20th century, some of the tools were still used in the 1970s. Until the First World War, the eastern part of the region still ploughed land with a double moulboard ard, pulled by a pair of oxen or cows in a yoke. Ards were replaced by ploughs, first made of wood with steel shares and mouldboards, later made wholly of steel, forged by village smithies. Root crops were covered with soil using various small ards called “soszka”. Other tillage tools include spike harrows completely made of wood or with a wooden frame and steel teeth, cultivators, or scratchers, and wooden rollers used for compacting soil. Grains were sowed by hand, carrying the seeds in a sheet of cloth or a special woven container called a “siewańka”. In eastern parts of the region, the sickle was the essential tool for crop harvesting even during the interwar period. Harvesting scythes had a special cradle which laid the windrow more evenly. The grains were then threshed with flails or, in richer farms, with threshing machines powered by horse mills. Next, the grains were ground in in querns composed of two round stones in a wooden frame, most often in the form of a trunk. The display shows querns which, instead of stones, ground the grains on wooden wheels with nailed pieces of cast iron. Grits were made by processing the grains in a mortar instead of a quern.

Rural means of transport

The display presents carts, sleds and carriages used in Podlasie from the end of the 19th century to the mid-20th century. The exhibition also shows archaic means of pulled transport – a self-made rafter drag and sleds used in the summer to transport ploughs or ards to the field.

Various types of sleds were used during the winter. A double sled (zajdki) was used for transporting logs, which were loaded with a trep or lada. These tools lifted the logs using a simple lever. The most basic sled had a chest made of boards or poles. The more affluent farmer could afford a sled with ironwork, sometimes even decorated. Definitely, the most striking object on display is an upholstered manor sled.

Carts and carriages are even more diverse than sleds. The carts which were used until the beginning of the 20th century were almost completely made of wood. Unfortunately, the museum has a very small collection of such items, obtaining individual parts of such carts, such as wooden axles, shafts or hubs. A lot of attention is drawn by the impressive ladder cart, used for collecting crops during harvest. More affluent farmers went to church or market in a carriage called a carbriolet (wolant). The display also shows a typical regional harness made of two shafts (hołoble) attached the cart’s front axle, a tug connecting the shafts (dugi or duhy), and a collar. The interior walls are hanged with oxen yokes, collars, bells, and other harness elements.

Inside the Jacowlany cottage.

Inside, the cottage shows typical village home furniture from the 1950s and 60s, soon after the introduction of its first electrical installation. That is why the equipment includes a vacuum tube radio. The large room in the cottage’s end wall is divided in two by a ceramic tile stove (ścianówka – wall stove). A second tile stove is in the kitchen. That is also where the personal hygiene nook is – with a washbasin and a towel rack. The cottage’s main chamber has a “holy corner” hanged with pictures. Among the furniture there is a frequent element of countryside cottages of old, a pier glass with doors opening to the sides. The atmosphere inside is enhanced by different types of textile art- tapestries and weaves on the walls and rugs on the floor.


Inside the Stara Grzybowszczyzna Hut

The residential part is divided into a kitchen and a small chamber, separated by a heating stove (a wall stove – ścianówka), which served as a bedroom. In this room, between the kitchen stove and the wall, there are pałaty, boards placed on poles which functioned as a bed. Next to them there is a wicker cradle. The kitchen is certainly dominated by the large stove, which was used for baking bread and cooking meals. Instead of cast iron plates the stove has a special layering, which was used for heating food in clay pots placed on forged tripods. Normally, the stove was used as a place of rest and even sleep. The walls and stove was whitewashed with clay. The interior is furnished with benches, a table and a chest. The chamber has recreation of a holy corner, a so-called penitence shrine (pokut) with an icon of St. Nicholas. The floor in the kitchen is made of clay pugging. The entrance hall leads to two chamber rooms which were used for storing food and every-day items, and to the utility room, where livestock was kept. One of the chambers has a particularly interesting plank with hazel rings, called a bucket (kubeł), which was used for storing clothes. The utility room can be entered from the hall as well as from the outside, through a one wing door or a two-wing gate. The latter made it possible to enter the building with a horse cart. The utility room has poles separating the livestock portion of the building. The ceiling is lined with vertical posts which supported hay.

Through the Valleys of Rivers

The ground floor of the Stara Wieś Granary houses a display of monuments connected with various aspects of life in river villages and towns in Podlasie. The display includes equipment used for catching fish in the old times, starting from wooden hammers for stunning fish under ice, through goads, basket and net traps (wiersze and żaki), to three-layer fishing nets. The basket traps were made from wicker with juniper or hop twigs woven in. The same principle was utilised in the net traps, which had a wooden rings with a net woven around then, extending into two wings with wooden poles driven into the river bed. The most common fishing tool used several decades ago is a net spread on a frame called kłonie or kłomle. Yet the best catch was caught using several different types of nets. Weights were made from clay, lead or iron, while floaters were usually bade of birch or aspen bark. The exhibition also shows different types of boats and canoes used by fishermen. Other aspects of riverside land economy, such as peat extraction, are also presented. The display is illustrated by pictures taken by photographers such as Wiktor Wołkow.

Wooden House Decoration in the Białystok Area

The display presents decorative elements of wooden houses, specific for north-eastern Poland, where the decorations are cut in wood with a coping saw. These include window headers and sills, with mesh cut boards above and under the windows; wind girders – boards attached along the end wall roof ridge, protecting its cover from being blown away by the wind, and profiled details nailed to the corners of houses. A typical decoration in the Białystok area is a lace cut slats nailed along the eaves. The end walls were adorned with the most decorative elements, where the whole surface was covered with various compositions of vertical, horizontal or askew boards and slats. Old architecture paid particular attention to the external surface of doors, which often was covered with slats nailed with forged large head nails. Lock plates were also a decorative element – shaped like a leaf, bird’s head, cross, etc. Many farmsteads, especially those inhabited by minor gentry, the porch was the essential part of the house’s appearance. The oldest porches were supported by four corner posts, boarded to above half their height, and covered with a thatched gable roof. During the interwar period, fully covered verandas gained in popularity, decorated with coloured glass. In the past, many house decorations were painted, especially window headers and shutters, which enhanced the beauty of the whole building.
The display also shows various decorative details in countryside buildings, such as wind guards, slats under eaves, window headers, as well as decorative corner boarding. The richness of ornamental elements is presented in pictures and photographs.  A significant addition to the exhibition is a village carpenter’s workshop, showing the tools used for cutting the ornaments, as well as the templates used for making the decorations.

On the various uses of clay

A permanent exhibition on clay, a resource which has played an essential role in many aspects of human economy. As it was used for thousands of years in pottery, the display shows a wide range of pots, created mostly in a pottery workshop in Czarna Wieś Kościelna. Apart from pots, the workshop also specialises in clay whistles in the shape of different types of birds. The exhibition also recreates a pottery workshop, with a pottery wheel, a hand propelled machine with two ribbed cylinders used for crushing lumps of clay, a scale for measuring clay portions for spinning, and shelves with unbaked pots. The querns standing nearby were used for grinding the ceramic glaze, composed of led, sand and water. Other small essentials of every pottery workshop include pieces of wire used for separating the spun container from the pottery wheel base, as well as flint stones used for polishing the surface of the pots. Since the dawn of humanity, clay was a basic element used in construction – coating floors and ceilings, making bricks and roof slates. The exhibition also presents tiles and cornices decorating masonry stoves, brickmaking frames, and ceramic slates.

Bee-keeping in a Podlasie country farm

The exhibition details bee-keeping in terms of the material character of keeping bees in a Podlasie country farm. The oldest form of apiculture is tree-beekeeping (bartnictwo), i.e. maintaining bee hives in hollows in trees (barć). The display presents long-handled chisels (pieśnie) used making the hollows (stabbing – dzianie). When such a tree was felled during a storm, the part of the log with the hive was chopped off using axes. This is how first log bee-hives were created. These hives were usually placed in treetops, recreating its natural conditions. First apiaries were built when the log hives were placed near beekeepers’ houses, making their work much easier. In the second half the 19th century, log hives were being gradually replaced by chests with frames surrounding the honeycomb. Different frame layouts determined the various types of wooden beehives presented in the exhibition. The most common design was the so-called Warsaw beehive, which had doors on the side and frames inserted from the top. The exhibition also shows centrifuges used for extracting honey from the combs. The oldest extractors are made from wood, the newer ones are metal. The exhibition features a lot of small accessories that were common to every apiary, such as cages for queen bees or masks used for collecting bee combs. Also, visitors can also learn about the various uses of wax and honey in the local custom, such as wax votive offerings from Krypno or rings used for making candles. A figurine of St. Ambrose, the patron of beekeepers, stands next to the entrance to the exhibition. Part of the display presenting various types of beehives is located next to the granary and is set up as a regular apiary.

Children in Podlasie countryside in the 20th century.

The exhibition depicts the world of a country child from infancy to school age. The display presents everyday objects related to children, from youngest years of life, such as cribs, strollers, and walkers. Toys always played an essential role in children’s lives and that is why the exhibition tries to reflect their unique variety, from simple toys made from a piece of cloth and wood, to miniature items and animals made with astonishing precision by country artisans. A large group of exhibits is made up by school objects such as backpacks, pencil cases and school aprons. The collection of school notebooks from the 1950s is particularly interesting, with its content closely related to current political events. The exhibition also presents children’s clothes, including unique school uniforms from several decades ago. Part of the exhibition is made up by a playground, available to visitors, whose equipment relates to old country toys.

Inside the Tymianki-Bucie Cottage

The display shows the typical equipment and furniture of a multi-generation family home from the interwar period. The interior is divided in a corner hall, a large kitchen, an alcove, and a main room, which are placed around the central chimney and stoves connected to it.  The hall was also a storage area for handy everyday items used in the farm, and for preparing animal feed. Querns for grinding flour were placed just outside the door. The kitchen was where people spent most of the time, as this was where meals were prepared and eaten, and simple house chores were done. The kitchen was also the sleeping place for the head of the farm and small children. Above the ceiling there is a beam (tram) which supported the other beams, which with time was converted into a shelf for storing documents, prayer books, and other valuables. The alcove was where clothes were kept in boxes and chests, and it was the bedroom for the grandparents. The main room was as a guest room and a bedroom for young ladies.
Next to the cottage is a well pole and a chicken coop, recreating the original farmstead layout from Tymianki-Bucie.

Exhibition illegal forest distillery

The forest distillery exhibition was created thanks to the Police service which donated the original equipment confiscated from people involved in illegal alcohol production. The exhibition presents, in natural surroundings, three contemporary and working distilleries from the Knyszyn Forest area, near Gródek. Interestingly, this is the only illegal forest distillery on display in Poland. A typical forest distillery consists of three main devices: a vat mashing, a boiler for heating the mash, and a cooler and decanter, used for cooling and purifying the prepared alcohol. The equipment also includes manual pumps used for pumping water and mash from the vats to the boilers, paddles for mixing the mash, as well as thermometers and various container for the finished product.
Podlasie is a region where distilling alcohol for personal use is an age-old tradition. Vast forest and easy access to fresh stream water helped illegal distilleries to flourish.  Rye is another essential element in preparing moonshine, the illegal spirit. For centuries, rye was the main crop in local farms. Other ingredients were also added to improve the flavour of the spirit, such as honey or other additives such as purple betony, whose essence is one of the main features of bukwicówka, a betony spirit. The last several decades were a period of intense changes in the structure of used ingredients as well as the design of illegal distilleries, completely departing from wooden barrels and vats.  Moonshine producers today utilize modern materials and devices that is why parts of the equipment on display are made from stainless steel and plastics. The evolution is presented in the exhibition, which shows a contemporary, fully equipped illegal distiller from the Knyszyn Forest.