Boarding! Polish Maritime Museum exhibition
The 385th anniversary of the naval Battle of Oliva between ships of the Polish and Swedish navies is being marked by the Polish Maritime Museum in a temporary exhibition – ‘TO BOARD!’ – in the Granaries on Olowianka Island in Gdansk. The exhibition highlights one of the oldest and most effective techniques used for centuries in naval battles – boarding the enemy’s ships.
Visitors to the exhibition learn about how naval battles were fought through examples of selected battles over the centuries – from antiquity to present times. ‘TO BOARD!’ presents such naval battles as the Battle of Salamis between the Greeks and Persians on September 28th, 480 BC; the Battle of Vistula Lagoon, fought between ships of the Teutonic Order and the Prussian Confederation, allied to the King of Poland, on 15th September, 1463; and the Battle of Oliva on November 28th, 1627. The boarding activities of Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean, in the region of the so-called ‘Horn of Africa’, are also highlighted in the exhibition.
The reconstructed fragment of a 17th century gun deck with three cannons is the most important element of the exhibition. Visitors have the opportunity not only to learn about life and service conditions on vessels of the past, but also to prepare a cannon for a shot, aim it at the opponent’s vessel and . . . take a shot from a replica of a 17th century cannon.
‘TO BOARD!’ includes important historic arms, both cold steel and firearms, dating back to the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, lent to the Polish Maritime Musuem from the collections of the National Museum in Kraków, the Polish Army Museum in Warsaw and the Malbork Castle Museum.
The exhibition is complemented with arms from the maritime museum’s collection from the wreck of the Swedish vessel Solen, which sank after the explosion of the gunpowder chamber – it is thought to avoid capture – during the Battle of Oliva. In addition, copies of arms – among them weapons used by the Greek ‘hoplites’, and medieval knights – are on exhibition.
Visitors may touch and handle the weapons. ‘TO BOARD! has been be adapted for disabled people by providing tactile models of the conditions before and after a battle, and information is printed in Braille. There are also workshops and educational presentations for children and young people – including fencing lessons – and a series of lectures for adults related to the exhibition.
The ‘TO BOARD!’ project is co-financed by the Minister of Culture and National Heritage. The Society of Friends of the Maritime Museum in Gdańsk has also participated in funding the exhibition.