Since establishing in 1975 and placing it in a separate seat in restored old townhall, the Szczecin’s History Museum - branch of the National Museum in Szczecin – has been collecting relics related to rich and multicultural history of the city from the oldest time up to the present. The oldest collections have been obtained mainly in result of archeological research conducted after the war on the castle hill and in the settlement outside it. They include found during excavations in 1999 exceptional treasure: a collection of coins from the 14th-15th century made by mints of that time’s western cities of Pomerania and over 300 silver, gold-plated ornaments of costumes, worn by wealthy inhabitants of the city. Among small objects, finely made in various jewellery techniques, there are exquisite clasps, finely ornamented chain links, door fittings, belt buckles, rings and over 150 decorative buttons, rosettes, hooks and eyes and appliqué designs, the most beautiful of which are three spectacular buttons with filigree decoration.
The Museum pays particular attention to a collection of historical iconography of Szczecin, which is still being enlarged. A collection of graphics from 16th to 20th century, gathered on the basis of the National Museum Drawings Cabinet, is a unique outlook on general views, panoramas, parts of streets and particular buildings, which characterize the city space in particular periods. The oldest ones originate from collective publications illustrating the most important European cities and often – like bird's-eye views by Braun and Hogenberg from the end of 16th century – have details that differ from the real view. Etchings made to order were often used for increasing the prestige and demonstrating economical and defensive possibilities of the city. Friedrich Bernhard Werner, in panoramas being created simultaneously with defensive fortifications of the Prussian stronghold, glorified military power of their founder Frederick William I.
In subsequent centuries the drawings still played not only aesthetic and artistic, but also informative and advertising role. Graphics by A. v. Roeßleraz from 1880s were encouragements to take a Sunday cruise. A spectacular example is also a woodcut by Feldweg made on the basis of a model of a fountain for Szczecin designed by Ludwig Manzel, which popularized the monument before it was erected in 1898 next to the city hall place.
Among the paintings there are two distinctive vedute, made with biedermeier precision by a Berlin master Ludwig Eduard Lütke in 1830s. They show buildings of Szczecin in the background of the port full of various ships and boats, among which a characteristic flat-bottomed „odrzak” has been shown in detail. Similar attention to detail may be found in a view of the port from 1899 signed ‘JR’., where it is easy to find the effects of technical revolution in shipyard industry and sailing.
Port landscapes were a popular motive among the artists of the 20th century, e.g. Eugen Dekkert, president of Pomeranian Society of Artists of many years. However, their pictures lose documentary character and become impressions, showing exceptional, momentary mood of a part of the wharf enveloped in smoke and fog.
Although Szczecin has never been a place of particular attraction, characteristic castle hill, old town backstreets and squares easily found their portrait painters. The collections include both works by local artists, giving outlook on the region’s capital environment of visual artists, as well, as creators from other centers. Originating from Silesia Oswald Polte settled in Szczecin and was painting and weaving teacher in applied arts school – the museum obtained his view of Rynek Sienny (“Hay Market”) with former town hall and stock exchange building which has not survived to our times. Nearby Berlin is represented by, among others, Hartig, frequently present in Szczecin’s expositions with his views of the city and nearby seaside resorts.
Works from the second half of the 20th century are also collected – they are not only a record of outputs of artists who arrived here after the war, but also documentation of special reality of the city, which has totally changed today. This concerns e.g. drawings by Adam Czaplic-Pohorecki from Lviv, honored creator and educator Guido Reck, or Tadeusz Nartowski.
Urban transitions occurring within centuries may be observed on account of interesting cartographic collection of Szczecin. Within it, there are two extremely valuable manuscript city maps being a part of a Swedish cadastre, most of which is stored in Greifswald archive. It was made for the area of Pomerania in late 17th century – with peculiar symbols and precision areas of Osów and Grzepnica (at that time villages near Szczecin) are shown with particular buildings and surrounding forests and fields.
Later drawings of property division and land development of parts of Łasztownia and other suburban areas have also great documentary and historic value.
A unique collection of plans and designs of Prussian fortifications from the 18th century includes drawings by the creator of Szczecin stronghold Gerhard Cornelius Walrave, accepted with royal signature, and suggested plans of of details of parts of city fortifications from the 18th century.
Spectacular development of the centre of Szczecin, inspired by demolition of the stronghold since the last quarter of the 19th century is recorded by plans and printed maps showing details of modern composition of streets and places, greenery, information of functions of public buildings, public communication routes, monuments, tourist attractions and location of important industrial plants. Their comparison gives precise outlook on urban and architectural achievements of fifty years of intense development of the city.
The most varied is the collection of Szczecin applied arts, including artistic blaksmithing, guild trunks, furniture, sacral and secular silver, porcelain and ceramics. Among rich collection of casting wares, the viewer's attention is attracted by an elegant jug by Simon Jant representing a circle of manufacturers producing for the court, numerous cups and guild glassware, and, from a later period, interesting lavabo ornamented with full-plastic fish, made in Johann David Kayser’s workshop at the turn of the 18th and the 19th centuries.
Tin, silver and porcelain wares ornamented with characteristic panorama, building or emblem, were used as souvenirs and today are collectors' desired object of interest.
Products of local crafts or even industry, closer to our times, have become museum relics and records of the city history. They illustrate everyday life of the citizens of varied wealth and peculiarity, variety and potential of pre-war companies.
Within the collections there are also old photographs and archival documents, as well, as souvenirs and typical postwar objects related to Szczecin. Although we still remember them as everyday equipment of houses, schools, offices or shops and they still have not gained museum pathos, they witnessed history that has been witnessed by us and that we should save for future generations. Although they seem considerably less spectacular, they are and will be valuable for researchers interested in history of the city and its inhabitants changing with every decade.
The most important collections of the Szczecin's History Museum:
- iconography of Szczecin (graphics, painting, photographs, plans and maps),
- applied arts and everyday use objects created by local artists, craftsmen and companies or made to order of the citizens of Szczecin,
- archive material obtained from the inhabitants of postwar Szczecin and postwar times pioneers,
- uniforms and military equipment of the 20th century,
- Szczecin 1945–2000 – documentation of postwar city.