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200th Anniversary of the Ossoliński National Institute

In June of 1817, the Emperor of Austria Francis I approved the Act establishing the Ossoliński Public Library in Lviv, submitted by Józef Maksymilian Ossoliński. This marked the creation of an institution which would later on play a significant role in the history of Polish culture. Ossoliński planned the institution as a treasure trove of national memorabilia. Prince Henryk Lubomirski soon supported Ossoliński’s project with his extensive collections. Pursuant to an agreement concluded in December 1823, his collections formed the Lubomirski Museum, which became a part of the “Ossoliński Public Library”. Despite the resistance of the Austrian authorities, Ossoliński’s facility became the National Institute, also known as the Ossolineum. The fall of the November Uprising clearly showed the importance of its role – after the universities in Vilnius and Warsaw were closed down, the Ossolineum became the second most important Polish cultural institution after the Jagiellonian University. Since the beginning of its existence, the functioning of the Institute has been supported by many donors, who constantly added new items to its collections out of a sense of patriotic duty. In the interwar period, the Ossoliński Institute was expanded to also include a publishing house (known primarily from the “National Library” series).

Following Poland’s defeat in 1939, the Institute’s collections, and especially the museum exhibits, were scattered and divided, and the library was transformed into a Soviet, and later a German institution. In 1946 a part of Ossoliński’s collection was transported to Wrocław, where the National Institute was supposed to be recreated. In 1953 it became a part of the Polish Academy of Sciences.

After 1989 the Institute returned to its pre-war organizational structure. Today, just like many years ago in Lviv, it consists of the Library, the Museum of the Lubomirski Princes and the Publishing House, and since 2016 also the Pan Tadeusz Museum, presenting to visitors, among others, the manuscript of this national epic.

No other Polish institution survived as many historic storms and cataclysms as the Ossolineum. For 200 years it has served the Polish nation and gathered invaluable souvenirs of Polish culture for future generations.

On the obverse of the gold coin, there is an image of the dome of the Ossoliński National Institute headquarters in Wrocław, partly covered by a contour of the pediment of the building’s northern facade. On the reverse we see the right profile bust of Józef Maksymilian Ossoliński, based on Jan Maszkowski’s portrait from 1818 and Walenty Śliwicki’s lithography from 1820.

On the obverse of the silver coin, there is an image of the dome of the Ossoliński National Institute headquarters in Wrocław, seen from the North- West, with an outline of the roof of the building in the background. The reverse depicts the bust of Józef Maksymilian Ossoliński facing right, according to Karl Mahnke’s lithography from 1836, on the backdrop of the dome’s baroque interior decorations.

Łukasz Koniarek PhD