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Interest in history of mysterious historic landmarks, intensified in particular during last years thanks to Bydgoszcz technology and military enthusiasts, resulted in the initiative of the municipal authorities to open a museum-tourist institution. The Leon Wyczółkowski Regional Museum was commissioned with the task of establishing an ethnographic museum of industrial architecture and tourist trail on the premises of NGL-Betrieb, a nitroglycerin production zone. It was registered on the list of key projects of the Regional Operational Program of Kujawsko-Pomorskie Voivodeship 2007-2011, making possible financing of the undertaking from the European Union funds. EXPLOSEUM – War Technology Center of DAG Fabrik Bromberg was established in one of the two nitroglycerin production lines.
The investment project on the premises of NGL, which was focused on the opening of EXPLOSEUM, was conducted by the Municipal Office of Bydgoszcz. Architectural design was made by the Gdynia Studio Kleczkowski – Architect, whereas the concept for interior design of the exhibition area, based on the expert script prepared by the Regional Museum (Department of Industrial Architecture), was made by the Warsaw Stage & Design Studio. The Bydgoszcz construction company Kontbud was commissioned with construction works, detailed design and building of the exhibition.
The story about the history of DAG enterprise starts with biography of the founder of the company. The exhibition contains family portraits and multimedia genealogical tree of the Nobel dynasty and its contemporary descendants. Here, we can find out which euro coin is related to the famous Swede. An important component of this part of the exhibition is the history of the Nobel Prize, featuring the content of the last will of the famous inventor and less known Polish tidbits related to this greatest award in science.
The history of DAG enterprise, almost completely unknown in Polish literature of this topic, was prepared based on materials gathered thanks to relations with German researchers. The exhibition presents, among others, the notary deed of foundation of the company dating from 1865, maps and archival photographs of early DAG factories, persons related to the early history of the company and many interesting pieces of historic information.
The darkest and at the same time the most lucrative chapter in the history of the enterprise was illustrated with the use of archival films, photographs and documents. The exhibition is enriched by contemporary photographs of remains of former DAG factories and a photo gallery of the main headquarters in Frankfurt.
The collection of the Regional Museum has over a thousand documents and plans, donated in 2009 by Prof. Johannes Preuss from the University of Mainz. Among them, there are materials regarding previously unknown aspects and details of functioning of the factory. The most interesting materials, provided with translation and historic commentary, are presented in chronological sequence in the exhibition. The entire display is completed by a large-format aerial map of the factory dating from 1944, as well as drafts of technical documentation, donated by Jarosław Butkiewicz..
Multimedia, interactive exhibition will allow to learn about production profile of the factory and introduce to visitors secrets of nitroglycerin production, enriched by a gallery of archival photographs dedicated to nitroglycerin production in the 19th century.
The cubic capacity of one of the biggest buildings in the NGL zone – acid denitration building – allows to describe in detail the history of arms and weaponry. The exhibition is based on military exhibits collected for years by the Museum, including a 15th-century medieval handgun, modern flintlock pistol, legendary colt dating from the mid-19th century, and a Russian ckm Maxim from 1910. The exhibition also features models of medieval siege engines, multimedia animations, showing principles of their operation and an extensive collection of military iconography, including a collection of World War II propaganda posters.
The history of gunpowder and modern explosives from 19th and 20th centuries is based on multimedia presentations, drawings of machines and equipment, and photographs of production interiors. Among exhibits presented here there is RDX (hexogen) production equipment from the collection of the Land Army Museum.
This multifaceted issue is presented in the collections of the Museum in the form of original documents, posters and photographs. Some of the exhibits shown on the display include workers’ “ausweis” identity cards, identity cards of Bydgoszcz residents working in DAG Allendorf and unique photographs presenting work in DAG plants. Movies, filmed for the needs of Nazi propaganda in the Third Reich inform also about work in the Nazi industrial plants. An integral part of the exhibition is forced labor in DAG Bromberg. Multimedia exhibition consists of memories of former workers in the form of audio-video presentation. There are also exhibits from the collections of the Museum, the most interesting of which include metal identification tags with personal information of workers, identity cards and factory entry passes, and the original document informing about establishing of penal labor camp on the premises of the factory. Exhibits coming from the Stutthof Museum in Sztutowo include an order from the Stutthof camp commander about opening a subcamp in Łęgnowo, and a transport list featuring a thousand of female Jewish names sent to work in DAG Bromberg.
The most interesting and heroic topic presented in EXPLOSEUM is underground-sabotage activity of Polish forced labor. Underground intelligence tasks were carried out for offensive wide range intelligence of the Main Command of the Union of Armed Struggle (Home Army). In 1941-1943, numerous reports were coming from Bydgoszcz to Warsaw. They show gradual uncovering of the facility by the Home Army and provide many valuable pieces of information. These reports, collected by the central Archives of Modern Records in Warsaw, are presented in the exhibition. In addition, there is a gallery of underground movement members, provided with biographic information – materials were acquired within cooperation with the Home Army Archive in Toruń.
The last topic, closing the history of DAG Bromberg, is activity of the Red Army in Poland. This expressive exhibition is based on a contrast between the propaganda of heroism and splendor of the Soviet Army and its criminal activity, which victim was Polish civilian population.
Regardless of exposition of various topics, an interesting tidbit and undeniable attraction of EXPLOSEUM is exhibits known as EXPLONATY, which are various objects found during excavation works in the NGL zone in 2009. These days, they are in the collections of the Regional Museum. Some of these exhibits, spread throughout all buildings, include a light bulb and plate with the DAG logo, laboratory dishes, tool tokens, parts of weaponry and ammunition, and even the Soviet star.