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A bright past

Forgotten, dusty and broken, but still full of memories of old greatness and bright existence in the urban landscape. Neons, which used to enliven the streets and serve as signposts during the night wanderings of the city-dwellers, have found their home. Today, they’ve become witnesses of the luminous times past.

A bright past Neon's Museum, Warsaw - poland

PolandMFA / Foter / CC BY-ND 2.0

The aim of most museums is the preservation of documents presenting the history of a city, a country or a concrete area of knowledge. We all know what the exhibits are like, those places share common characteristics: books, photographs, objects of everyday use and special applications, etc. But Warsaw’s Soho Factory houses a slightly different exhibition, preserving and communicating the old vision of Poland. In building number 55 in the old industrial area, a couple of passionate collectors, Ilona Karwińska and David Hill amassed a rich array of old neons, which used to decorate many Polish cities. Everything began with the “Polish Neon” project in 2005, which became the rudiment of what today is the Museum of Neons. The founders started to collect and renovate damaged neons. The first exhibition was appreciated all over the world. It was shown in London, Luxemburg, Amsterdam and Warsaw.

So what is the magic behind the neons which makes the museum grow in popularity year by year? The exhibits are not only an interesting and unique “document” of urban history and a witness of everyday life of Poland in the past,  very often they were designed by renowned artists, architects and graphic designers, so they may be considered modern works of art. If there was no-one to save them from oblivion, they would have been destroyed. The founders of the museum deal not only with renovations. They have also gathered documentation which shows the history behind each exhibit, photos and collections of drawings and postcards. They are active protectors of neons in the urban space as well. They tend to the Syrenka on Grójecka Street and Mydła Farby on Nowolipki Street in Warsaw. Many of the renovated averts are hanged on the walls of buildings at Soho Factory. Inscriptions such as “Jubiler”, “Warszawa Wschodnia”, “Dworzec Kolejowy Chodzież”, “Główna Księgowa Techniczna”, “24h”, “Kino Praha” and “Filiżanka Jaś i Małgosia” may be seen from the outside of the Museum. In building number 55 there are about 50 neons, which amount to over 500 letters in total. The creators of the museum constantly search for new luminous adverts to salvage, so that they could – instead of decaying in warehouses and dumps – enjoy a second life bringing joy to the people of Warsaw and tourists alike.

The Neon Museum is located in Soho Factory on Mińska 25 in building number 55. It is run by Neon Foundation and relies on voluntary work. The exhibition may be visited from Wednesday to Saturday from 12 to 17 and on Sunday 12 from 16. The exhibition tour may be accompanied by a Polish or English speaking guide. The cost is PLN 100 or PLN 120, depending on the language version. The museum is equipped with facilities for the disabled. 

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