The process of economic transformation in Poland that started with social and economic reforms at the end of the 20th century, resulted in closing multiple historic industries and in some instances – entire industrial regions. The liquidation of tangible traces of Poland’s industrial development has not been accompanied by a reasonable plan to retain the most important evidence of Poland’s economic development. Industrial heritage continues to exist wherever there are the few facilities using manufacturing processes that are often archaic.
Steelworks, mines, textile factories and a number of other industrial facilities for years were the pride of their employees and the citizens living nearby. Along with the economic transformation process, the facilities started to be examples of technological backwardness and low quality of the inhabitants’ life. Today it has become exceedingly difficult to find the silhouettes of blast furnaces, mine shafts, cooling towers or brick chimneys of former boiler houses in the landscapes of Polish cities.
Despite a growing interest in industrial heritage, the liquidation process of the last evidence of the industrial history of industrial regions has been progressing. Important, often the last examples of industrial activity keep being closed or destroyed. This is what has been going on with the historic closed mines in Upper Silesia.
The Foundation for the Protection of Silesian Industrial Heritage was established by Piotr Gerber in 2007 to ensure active protection of industrial heritage in Upper and Lower Silesia. The operations pursued by the Foundation are of varying nature. The Foundation has been taking up activities in the following areas: research of industrial history in Silesia (a number of publications), practical protection of tangible industrial heritage as well as education on economic development.
The most important aspect of the activities of the Foundation is protection of selected technical facilities, characteristic for Silesia. The protection is achieved primarily by transforming the preserved facility into a museum. Protection by the transformation of the rescued historic facility into a museum has been made on the basis of various models. The selection of the protection mode is primarily intended to ensure maximum protection and the best preservation of the original and authentic nature of the historic facility.
When selecting a facility to preserve, consideration is given to facilities of special importance for the region and those representing the most important industries that developed in Upper or Lower Silesia.
Now, the Foundation operate the Museum of Industry and Railway in Silesia in Jaworzyna Śląska established in 2005 and the Zinc Metallurgy Museum in Szopienice-Katowice, opened in 2016. The following museums are being prepared: Museum of Silesian Porcelain in Tułowice near Opole, Museum of Agricultural Technology in Piotrowice Śląskie near Świdnica, Railway Museum in Dzierżoniów as a branch of the Museum in Jaworzyna Śląska and Museum of Grain Milling being now prepared in a historic mill in Dzierżoniów.