Secrets of everyday life.
Folk culture and related border issues from Kujawy to the Baltic Sea (1850-1950)
The exhibition is a story about people, their everyday life consisting of both work time and holiday time. Many aspects of everyday life from the turn of 19th and 20th centuries seem to be astonishing, unclear and sometimes even exotic. Also, people living in those days found many phenomena from their surrounding mysterious but they interpreted them in compliance with many-hundred-year-old tradition and in accordance with contemporary outlook on life.
The exhibition is a “portrait” of ethnographic regions belonging to the area of Kujawsko-Pomorskie Province and covering the area of pre-war Pomorskie Province (regions: Kujawy, Chełmno District, Bory Tucholskie, Kociewie, Pałuki, Dobrzyń District, Krajna). We present mainly everyday life of farm people living in villages and small towns, in other words – folk culture. However, we want to point distinctly out its borderline character resulting from important influence of noble and middle-class culture and especially from technical and civilization changes.
This territory is also an ethnic and religious borderline area. The residents of this area are mainly Poles and Catholics. However, historical and cultural presence of other ethnic and religious groups is also of great significance. These groups are mainly Germans, people with Netherlands origin, Mennonites, Protestants as well as Jews, Gypsies and Russians.
We are presenting the most valuable objects from the museum collection in order to illustrate everyday life and to answer basic questions concerning human life in the past: what people ate, how they dressed, how they cared about hygiene, how they worked and spent free time, how they celebrated and what they believed in.
The exhibition shows the time at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries (therefore we use past tense in descriptions), but many of the issues presented have both earlier and later origin, and in some cases, even continuation at present.
NATURE AND HISTORY
The world of a man is spread between nature and culture created by him. The integrity of life is a result of relations between these two environments. It is the surrounding nature that affects the culture character and its form (e.g. how people dress, what they eat, how they work).
The second, very important factor determining culture forms, is history. Civilisation changes, technical inventions and political events (concerning the country and even Europe) had their influence on everyday life of even the smallest village residents.
CLOSE TO A BODY. ABOUT CLOTHES, HYGIENE AND FOOD
In order to live, work, celebrate, a man had to take care about his basic needs: ensuring clothes and food, coping with diseases, caring about hygiene at least occasionally. Intensity, form and significance of all these activities depended on individual preferences, possibilities, norms and principles passed in a family, on its surrounding and on cultural systems.
Family festivals, connected with a life cycle, determined its rhythm, from the day of birth till death. They were accompanied by rituals and customs, which were passed from generation to generation, and which established order in human existence and ensured the sense of safety for the household and its residents. Some of them originated from pre-Christian rituals of passage, that is to say, rituals accompanying a young man in the moment of entering spheres which were closed for him earlier. Baptism, First Communion, wedding celebrations were the most important events for people and they opened new stages of their life in a family, in church and in their local community.
Work ensured means for family life and it filled most of time. It was treated as both a necessity and great value. People cultivated the land, raised cattle, earned one’s living on craft and trade. Harvest and animal husbandry influenced the existence of a family and also of the whole social groups. Therefore, there were many vegetation and agrarian rituals connected with work which aimed at wealth assurance. They were present simultaneously with more and more modern farm keeping methods which facilitated work and increased cropping results.
HOW PEOPLE CELEBRATED HOLIDAYS AND WHAT THEY BELIEVED IN
Old time folk culture was pervaded with religious sensibility. The sense of sacrum covered the whole life. Activities, norms, behaviour were subordinated to the outlook on life in which religious values dominated. Apart from Christian religiousness, there were also, strong magic beliefs originating from pre-Christian times. Therefore, we can observe connection of these two elements into one cultural pattern materialising both in church and at home, during official church services and folk rituals in the rhythm of church life and seasons of a year.
In traditional folk culture, apart from work and celebrations, little time was left for resting. First of all they were evenings during which passing religious stories from generation to generation was very popular.
In the second half on the XIX century, under influence of changing social relations, the man began to devote more of his time for activities not connected with work. This time, religious, cultural and sport societies were formed and they gathered people of similar interests. Most of the organisations promoted patriotic values. Social life developed, people organised trips, dancing parties and picnic parties.
With civilisation development, people had more and more opportunities of obtaining knowledge about the world and verifying their former outlook on life. It was fostered by schools which taught how to read and to see the reality, for example, by press. Military service was also a kind a window on the world as the service was often done far away from home. Many new ideas connected with economy or views of life appeared with growing immigration to both Americas.
SEARCHING FOR BEAUTY
People were surrounded by objects of different functions: useful, religious or ceremonial. Creating or buying them the man often paid attention to the objects aesthetics. The man appreciated the colour, ornamentation and shape which was “pleasing to the eye”. The choice was made by some unconscious sense of beauty as the man aimed at making his local world more colourful. With time, under the influence of noble and middle-class culture, the idea of aestheticism became very important and there were appearing objects the only function of which was space decoration.