Bydgoszcz is a city in northern Poland most famous worldwide for its great international cinematographers film festival - Camerimage. Besides this, we discovered something quite particular about that city, something you could add on the list of reasons to come over for a visit! There is an exquisite museum in Bydgoszcz called the Museum of Soap and History of Dirt, which was actually certified in 2017 as „The Best Tourism Product” by the Polish Tourist Organization. In 2013, at its beginning, the Museum received the nomination of „Seven New Miracles of Poland” given by National Geographic Traveler. The Museum is located in the Old Town of Bydgoszcz, and its displays and workshop space are divided among three buildings.
We had the pleasure of talking about the beginning of the museum with Karol Łyjak, the manager of the museum.
When and how did idea of creating such an original museum appear?
The Museum was founded thanks to the initiative of Daria Kieraszewicz and Adam Bujny. Daria has been interested in tourism and the history of Bydgoszcz for many years now. She’s been taking part in various local activities. Adam was manufacturing the natural soaps as well, as he has also been collecting the soaps from before 1989. It all started with the conversation of two inventive heads that decided to create this exceptional museum. The Museum was opened on the 1st of September 2012.
Does the Museum have the special characters or heroes linked to its activity or history?
Definitely the heroes of the museum are its creators, and now owners, who constantly inspire us with new ideas. Also, all the Museum’s employees are the proper heroes of that place as they’ve been running it for the past 6 years with all their involvement and positive spirit. Likewise, the inhabitants of Bydgoszcz are the museum-specific heroes as they keep donating the exhibits, and by sharing their stories they have a real input in museum development. Lately, our heroes became one American family that offered us their whole collection of vintage hotel soaps. This very nice gesture also means that we are recognizable as a museum internationally.
What is the most interesting story about beginning of the Museum or daily activities there?
We had plenty of such anecdotes here, but it’s better if they’re going to remain our secret 🙂 . Mostly, they are all coming from the visits of the little kids, usually from kindergartens or primary schools. Children hardly ever get embarrassed so they often share with us plenty of stories from their homes with „dirt” as a main theme. Usually, all these gags are very awkward to listen to, because kids unconsciously picture the portrait of their family life. Many times their teachers, as well as the Museum’s guides, can’t resist the laughter. Also, kids have many unique and funny associations with the various old-fashioned tools that used to serve to maintain the hygiene. Quite often we hear then what else the toothbrush can be used for or for how long someone’s from some outgoing child’s family has been skipping the shower.
Are there any difficulties that the Museum has to deal with on an everyday basis?
The difficulties come from the nature of the touristic flow. Intensive visits start around April-May and end in autumn. Wintertime usually doesn’t bring that many guests, which obviously influences the economical balance. There aren’t any visitors from outside Bydgoszcz then and local people are usually searching for some novelties. That’s why we are trying to constantly work on our offers, we keep modifying them, cooperating with various partners.
The offer of the Museum is very diverse and we are quite sure that everyone can find something for themselves. Visitors can see the medieval baths, the 19th century bathing room or even the first portable toilet! Apart from the permanent displays, there is Itinerant Manufacture of Soap, which was created based on the years and years of the tradition of soap and candles production in Bydgoszcz. The idea of that exhibition, which is actually also a workshop space, is to take visitors back in time. Apart from finding out many secretes about the history of soap, everyone has a chance to make their own soap, deciding about its shape, color, scent and luxurious extracts to put inside. The presentation is prepared for children as well for adults. While kids are told the stories about where soap came from and how people were cleaning in the distant past, adults are presented with the lecture with the mysterious title „How to keep your husband’s love,” which actually turns out to be the history of the cosmetic advertisement. The workshop is the „moving one” and it can reach any place in Poland.
The Museum also has the different partners that together come up with some very interesting offers for visitors. One of them is the cooperation with Caramel Land. During the two hours visit, not only can guests experience soap workshops and explore its history, but also watch the presentation about the sweets’ manufacturing (!) and make their very own lollipop (!).
Another partner of the Museum is Cafe Kino (Cafe Cinema) at the Bydgoszcz Old Town. It’s actually a great offer for school trips as, apart from a visit to the Museum of Soaps and History of Dirt, they can participate in a special screening taking place in the Cafe. Inside the Museum, there is also Bydgoszcz Soap Manufacture, a store where customers can buy beautiful and elegant soaps, peelings and bath salts, as well as souvenirs, books and little gadgets.
The way that the Museum of Soaps and History of Dirt decided to tell the story of a field that everyone knows so well is exceptional. Because we consider soap and daily hygiene a routine, we forgot that it also has its history and tradition. Once again, we are proving that everything in life its interesting, you just need to know how to talk about it. A visit to this Museum is a must for all the adventurous museum-lovers!