Collection of Weapons at Lviv Historical Museum
Lviv Historical Museum was created in 1940 on the basis of the National Museum of King Jan III and the Museum of Lviv History, which funds included the collections of the Museum of Princes Lubomirski, the collection of B. Ozhehovych and (partially) the collection of Pidhirtsi Castle. At that time the collection of weapons of LHM was formed, the largest in Ukraine today.
Each of the weapon collections of the institutions mentioned above had its own history. The oldest of them is a collection of the Museum of Princes Lubomirski. Its basis is so-called Przeworsk arsenal, private collection of arms of Lubomirski Princes which remained in their residence in Przeworsk (now Poland). Firstly the collection was of purely applied character, it served as arsenal in the full sense of the word. But in the late 18th century it began to become a museum, being enriched by rare examples of weapons and firearms. It should be noted that the collection included personal arms of Lubomirski Princes and Polish military and public figures. After the defeat of the Polish uprising of 1863-1864 the collection was enriched by the weapons of the uprising participants. In 1863 the collection was transferred to Ossolineum - scientific institution in Lviv - and along with the collections of other items formed a collection of newly named Museum of Princes Lubomirski.
During 1939-1940 the museum collection was enriched due to the deposits of the fugitives from Poland. A special ledger was used for them, corresponding numeration was introduced.
Collection of the National Museum of King Jan III was formed with the emergence of the museum, founded in 1908. Originally it consisted of several samples of antique weapons kept in the Municipal Archive. The main source of the collection enrichment was the gifts of organizations and residents of the city. In 1914 it was enriched by the items from the collection of W. Lozinski, famous historian of Lviv and art critic, who bequeathed his collection (including weapons) to Lviv.
In 1914 the famous collector B. Ozhehovych gave the Museum his collections, among which there was the collection of weapons. It was so great in number and value that it was exhibited separately, having a special status.
In 1921 the collection of military weapons of the First World War period was given to the National Museum of King Jan III by the District Command of the Polish Army IV Corps for temporary storage (deposit).
The collection of arms of Lviv Historical Museum was originated on the basis of the collection of the National Museum of King Jan III and consisted of the things that were directly related to the history of the city.
All these collections of weapons were not systematic and they were a collection of random things. The main criteria for completing were the absence of similar things in the collection, rarity and the presence of rich decoration. Considerable attention was paid to the geography of things origin, so the collection of LHM is represented by weapons of more than 30 countries.
During World War II the collection of LHM suffered significant losses. A large number of monuments was taken by the Nazis in 1944 to Visnicha (near Krakow). The fate of these units is unknown.
In the postwar period the LHM collection of weapons was enriched by the exhibits from the exhibition of captured weapons in Lviv, and also due to the transfer of the exhibits from the museums of Moscow and Leningrad (Russian military weapons from the 17th – 19th centuries).
At the same time 400 items were removed from the collection. They were received by the exchange to almost all historical museums of the USSR. Some things were donated to the museums in Moscow, Leningrad, Belarus.
Today the collection of weapons at LIM has about 4.5 thousand items. It represents a variety of examples of cold and fire arms and defensive weapons from the 10th - 20th centuries.
Firstly, the items from the collection of “Weapons” were used only to illustrate certain themes in the museum expositions. However, the amount of the collection exceeded the needs of the exposition. Therefore, in 1950's the permanent exhibition of opened arms funds was opened. It was exhibited in so-called Gothic Hall and made great impression on the visitors. It exhibited only cold weapons.
In 1975 LHM got the premises of former municipal arsenal. May 18, 1981 there was opened an exposition “Museum-Arsenal” there. A unique museum had no analogues in the former USSR. The basis of the exposition plan was the development of various weapons. Implementing the idea fully - to show the evolution of weapons, starting with the weapons of primitive society - failed for lack of funds. Today the exhibits of the collection of weapons are still used in some museum exhibitions, in “Museum-Arsenal”. In recent years several exhibitions were prepared, including the exhibition “Hunting Weapons from the 16th – 19th centuries,” exhibited in many cities of Ukraine and the Republic of Poland.
Weapons science as auxiliary historical discipline is distinguished by its versatility. It requires the knowledge of metallography, heraldry, art, general history, foreign languages.
It is clear that the museum did not have such professionals after World War the Second, when it began to restore and expand its work. Moreover, basic work with the subjects from the group “Weapons” lied in inventory of the collection. There was no question about some scientific study of the collection at first. The preservers of the group “Weapons” changed quite often. Among them we should point out V. Denchuk - a man in love with the Museum. He completed the inventory of the collection 1958. In two years the preserver of the fund “Weapons” became Borys Melnyk. He did a lot to organize and study the collection. He prepared the catalogs: Geography (weapons and firearms), names of artists and titles of manufacturers of weapons and firearms. Using the materials of Central State Historical Archive in Lviv region he wrote several articles on the problems of weapons science published in “Scientific Notes of LHM.” B. Melnyk was involved into preparing materials for the publication “Polish Hussars”, carried out by Polish scientists. He prepared a detailed inventory of “winged hussars” armors that are stored in the museums of Ukraine. He prepared a catalog of weapons in the collection of Chernihiv Historical Museum (in cooperation with O. Kulinsky). B. Melnyk is a co-author of the booklet “Museum - Arsenal.” He prepared for publication the detailed work - catalog of the collection “Arms in the Funds of LHM”, which includes more than 3000 exhibits.