|Location||984 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago|
Chicago, Illinois 60622
The Polish Museum of America is located in West Town, in what had been the historical Polish Downtown neighborhood of Chicago. It is home to numerous Polish artifacts, artwork, and embroidered folk costumes in its growing collection. Founded in 1935, it is one of the oldest ethnic museums in the United States and a Core Member of the Chicago Cultural Alliance, a consortium of 25 ethnic museums and cultural centers in Chicago.
Each year, the museum organizes several exhibitions, publishes accompanying bilingual catalogs, and conducts a wide range of public programming, frequently in collaboration with other museums, educational institutions, and cultural centers. It promotes the knowledge of Polish history and culture by focusing on Polish and Polish American art through its collection of paintings, sculptures, drawings and lithographs by well-known artists. In addition to exhibits the Polish Museum of America also maintains cultural programs such as lectures, movies and slide presentations, theater performances, meetings with schools and people dedicated to Polish Culture from all over the world.
The museum serves as the focus of official commemorations of Casimir Pulaski Day where various city and state officials congregate to pay tribute to Chicago's Polish Community.
After a fire wiped out the Polish Library and National Museum at Alliance College in 1931, prominent voices in the Polish-American community began agitating for a venue in the United States which could both promote Polish culture and history as well as attest to the Polish presence in North America.
The Polish Museum of America was established in 1935 as the "Museum and Archives of the Polish Roman Catholic Union of America". Miecislaus Haiman was appointed its first curator, archivist and chief librarian. The museum officially opened its doors on January 12 of 1937.
The Polish Museum of America is located within the headquarters of the PRCUA. Designed by John S. Flizikowski, a notable Polish-American architect, construction began on the building in July 1912. Built of pressed brick in the Classical Revival style, the building is augmented by later Art Deco terracotta decorations inspired by Polish folkloric motifs. Listed as possessing potentially significant architectural or historical features, the building was ranked as orange in the city commissioned Chicago Historic Resources Survey, only one step below the most important designation of red.
Some of the museum's most precious holdings include a sleigh that was a gift of the Polish King Stanislaus Leszczynski to his daughter, sculptures by famed cult artist Stanislav Szukalski, a collection of original drawings by Count Thaddeus von Zukotynski, exhibits from the Polish Pavilion at the 1939 New York World's Fair, as well as a bas relief carved in salt from the Wieliczka Salt Mine.
The museum also possesses the painting of "Pulaski at Savannah" by Stanisław Kaczor Batowski, which was exhibited at the Century of Progress Fair in 1933 where it won first place. After the fair closed, the painting went on display at The Art Institute of Chicago where it was unveiled by Eleanor Roosevelt on July 10, 1934 and was on exhibit until its purchase by the Polish Women's Alliance on the museum's behalf in 1939. Another important painting is an extremely rare portrait of Edward Kozłowski, the first Polish priest to be named (1914) a Bishop of Milwaukee, and the second (after Chicago's Paul Peter Rhode) Polish bishop in the history of the Roman Catholic Church in America.
The library and archives at The Polish Museum of America were organized simultaneously with the museum's opening, to meet the research needs of its staff, visiting researchers, students and members of the general public interested in Polish and Polish-American history. The archives of the Polish Museum of America hold numerous paintings, documents, coins and artifacts relating to the history of Poland and Polonia. Its impressive inventories run the gamut from its collection of 730 jubilee books of Polish Roman Catholic parishes to the recruitment records of volunteers for the Polish Army in France. The library’s collections are an essential resource for the museum’s research, exhibition development and educational programs.
One of the most visited rooms is the Ignace Paderewski Room, which was started around June 1941 through generous donations from his sister Antonina Paderewski Wilkonska. The room also includes items donated from the Buckingham Hotel in New York City where Paderewski spent the last months of his life. The room was officially opened to the public on November 3, 1941. Many believe that the museum and in particular the Paderewski Room is haunted, perhaps by Paderewski himself. The staff recounts a number of incidents related by a number of people, including the cleaning crew who have claimed to experience ghostly-related phenomena late at night. The Ghost Research Society was even brought in by the museum staff to investigate these claims.
According to the Ghost Research Society's Website: