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The villa 'Atma' in Zakopane houses the world's only biographical museum of Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937). The Polish composer, second greatest after Frederic Chopin, had enjoyed staying in Zakopane from his early youth, and towards the end of his life settled there permanently, living in a villa in Kasprusie street.
The idea of establishing the Szymanowski Museum in „Atma” was suggested by composer Michał Kondracki as early as in 1937, and after the war efforts in this direction were undertaken by Szymanowski's niece - Krystyna Dąbrowska. However, it was only in 1967 that an appeal in this matter was successfully issued by Zdzisław Sierpiński, a music critic from Życie Warszawy. Soon afterwards, a prominent writer and music critic - Jerzy Waldorf – formed a public committee at the Warsaw Music Society, whose purpose was to purchase and renovate „Atma”. In 1974, the building was transferred to the National Museum in Krakow, and only two years later - on 6 March 1976 - the villa was opened to the public. The ground floor presented an exhibition devoted to the composer and his ties with the Tatra Mountains and Zakopane. Most of the exhibits were donated by the artist's niece, Krystyna Dąbrowska.
Villa 'Atma' was erected after 1890 as a typical guest house, one of many built in Zakopane in the late 19th and early 20th centuries for rent to holidaymakers. 'Atma', built by Józef Kaspruś-Stoch, owes its original name to the tourists of that era – it is derived from the Sanskrit word for "soul". The house is an example of the Zakopane style, introduced to architecture by Stanisław Witkiewicz.
Read also: Karol Szymanowski's place on Earth
The museum is situated on the ground floor of the villa and offers basic information about the life and work of the composer. It also presents his ties with Zakopane and Podhale folklore, preserves his personal items and houses a reconstruction of Karol Szymanowski's study. In the years 2011-2013, this branch of the National Museum in Krakow underwent major renovation and structural modernization as part of a partnership project of the National Museum in Krakow and the Orava Museum in Dolny Kubin called „Music in the Tatra Mountains” realised within the Cross-Border Cooperation Programme the Republic of Poland – the Slovak Republic 2007-2013 . Thanks to the EU funds and the support of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, the venue acquired modern installations and facilities for the disabled, while the historical matter was secured.