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Evolution (Latin evolutio – unfolding, unrolling) refers to a slow, irreversible and directional process of development leading to greater diversity, complexity and perfection. This phenomenon can be observed not only in the world of live creatures. Collections (Latin colligere – gather into a whole), in particular museum collections, undergo a similar process. It is because unlike private collection they are characterised by the irreversibility and unidirectionality of the movement of objects making them up.
An excellent example of the above is the collection of the Numismatic Cabinet at the National Museum in Krakow, which is the only Polish assembly of this kind which not only survived, without considerable damage, all the turmoils of the 20th century but has also been constantly and dynamically developing. This growth, resulting in the evolution of the collection, is possible above all thanks to the continuous extraordinary generosity of donors. In the last 15 years almost 30,000 objects were added to the collection of the Numismatic Cabinet, which now contains over 112,000 items.
The present character, size and significance of the exhibition is the result of donations of both large sophisticated and specialised collections, numbering even thousands of items, and small groups of objects, sometimes even single pieces. The former not infrequently influenced the way the Numismatic Cabinet’s collection was developing. This was the case of the collection of Polish coinage and medals amassed by Emeryk Hutten-Czapski (1828–1896), containing some 11,000 items, presented to the National Museum in Krakow by the Czapski Family in 1903, and the collection of nearly 5,000 medieval coins belonging to Zygmunt Zakrzewski (1867–1951), donated by Jadwiga and Andrzej Kleczkowski in 1960. As a result of these generous gifts the collection of Polish coins and medals of the National Museum in Krakow is now the best worldwide. The donation made in 1946 by Karol Hallama (1871–1948), consisting of over 2,500 coins determined today’s quality of the collection of antique coins. No less important are smaller gifts, sometimes of single objects, as they sometimes fill gaps in large collections.
The aim of the exhibition held in the Czapski Palace now is to show the changes the collection of the Numismatic Cabinet underwent in the last 15 years and in this pay tribute to its creators – benefactors.
The oldest, chronologically, part of the collection, made up of antique coins, was enlarged with over 3,500 items, above all thanks to the donations made by Lech Kokociński (almost 3,000 items), William Stancomb and Jacek Budyn, consisting of among other things the currencies issued by the Greek colonies located along the Black Sea coast, 3rd- and 6th-century bronzes from the Late Roman Empire and Byzantine coins.
What is also unprecedented is the development of the collection of counterfeit coins, earlier small and built up rather at random. As a result of Lech Kokociński’s donation of almost 3,500 items to the Museum it became the best collection of this kind in Poland. Coin forgeries making it up were struck from the antiquity to the present – to the detriment of both the issuers and the collectors.
Another collection which has grown is that of Middle and Far Eastern money, in which worthy of special note are Indian and Chinese coins (gifts of Rev. Jan Kołecki and Edward Soczewiński), issued from the Middle Ages to the present. This assembly also includes extremely interesting coins issued for the leper colonies in the Pacific islands (gift of Aleksander de Miguel).
The collection of medals has been developing less dynamically, but in an extremely interesting way. Through the effort of Maria Ostrowska it has been expanded with excellent examples of Italian contemporary medal-making. Mirosław Kruszyński regularly adds Swiss religious and occasional medallions to it.
An assembly of banknotes has also undergone change in terms of quantity – it has been recently complemented with a collection of 20th-century banknotes, securities and notgeld (emergency money) of German towns (gifts of Mirosław Kruszyński and Józef Frey). What has also been growing is a collection of “paper” money from the Polish People’s Republic in a broad sense of the word and sometimes underestimated, including coupons, vouchers and food ration coupons as well as banknotes with printed inscriptions (gift of Lech Kokociński).
New acquisitions of non-monetary and ore money are represented by an axe-like iron bar from the turn of the 9th and 10th centuries (gift of Rafał Janke) and late-medieval silver clumps (gift of the Warsaw Numismatic Cabinet).
The most valuable items added to the collection of the Numismatic Cabinet in the last 15 years became part of its permanent exhibition and are marked with the symbol ^. They include Scythian gold ornaments from the 3rd century BC (gift of Anna and Franciszek Kmietowicz), Greek and Roman gold coins bequeathed by Tadeusz Zawadzki, an early medieval silver necklace (gift of Lech Kokocińskie) and a collection of extremely beautiful Krakow bracteates from the early 13th century built up mainly through the generosity of Jacek Budyn.
The exhibition also presents a collection of archive records, which is not part of the holdings of the Numismatic Cabinet but is closely linked with it, amassed by the Archive of the National Museum in Krakow also thanks to the gifts. It inlcudes among other things an invaluable and to this day regarded as lost during the war group of documents connected with the operation of the Numismatic Association in Krakow (gift of Jerzy Sowiński), as well as the legacies of eminent numismatists: Władysław Bartnowski (1832–1918), Marian Gumowski (1881–1974), Tadeusz Kałkowski (1889–1979) and Ryszard Kiersnowski (1925–2006). Lech Kokociński’s gifts have made it possible to build, from scratch, a collection of documents illustrating the activity of the numismatic movement organised after World War II.
During the preparations for the current exhibition the Numismatic Cabinet of the National Museum in Krakow received nearly 12,000 antique and oriental coins collected by the soldiers of the 2nd Corps, being part of the army of General Władysław Anders (1892–1970), and the curator of the so-called Polish Museum in Jerusalem Stefan Jabłonowski-Pietruszka (1898–1973), and almost 700 imitation and fake coins from Jan Makarski’s collection.
Curator: Mateusz Woźniak Co-ordinator: Katarzyna Maniak Layout and design: Piotr Broda