11.08.2017 / News

Museum of Pharmacy Opening 6th Septemeber

Aparatura apteczna (The pharmaceutical instruments), fot. Adrian Czechowski, Igor Oleś

Until the mid 20th century, pharmacies not only sold drugs, but also produced them. In order to increase their profits, apothecaries manufactured cosmetics, inks, candles and sweets. Proprietary drugs, produced by the pharmaceutical industry, called patent drugs or – in Poland – osobliwki (curiousettes) entered distribution in the late 19th century.

The subsequent rooms feature furniture from a pharmacy at 19 Krakowskie Przedmieście Street. The equipment was moved to that location in the years 1860–1973, from a pharmacy located at Trzech Krzyży Square (formerly Św. Aleksandra Square), founded by Henryk Klawe, Master of Pharmacy. The furniture, ordered in the last quarter of the 19th century, is decorated with mahogany veneer and its style is a mixture of then-fashionable historic styles: mainly neo-renaissance, with pseudo-baroque and pseudo-classicist details. It is the second oldest existing set of pharmacy furniture in Warsaw.

Pharmaceutical containers

Ancient apothecaries stored their pharmaceutical ingredients in containers made of various materials, such as ceramics, metal, wood and stone. Glass became common in the 18th century and soon became the basic material for producing pharmaceutical containers, mainly due to its good technical parameters (imperviousness, transparency, low reactivity). Its decorative value was also appreciated, although it did not always go hand in hand with functionality.

The history of pharmacy concerns not only pharmaceutical materials, simple and compound medicines, but also dosage forms. The pharmaceutical instruments used for preparing various forms of pharmaceutics and containers used for storing raw materials, displayed at the exhibition, create a narrative about the history of pharmacy.

Due to its high resistance against chemical agents, glass was the main material used for making pharmaceutical containers. Vessels and containers such as jars, bottles, decanters, vials and ampoules were fashioned in various, sometimes fanciful, forms. Contrary to metal cans or wooden boxes, glass does not absorb humidity, does not mould, is not reactive to the contents of the packaging and is easy to clean. Also, it is transparent, allowing to see inside the container.

Forum of Antonina Leśniewska, Master of Pharmacy

Antonina Leśniewska (1866–1937) took up the fight for the access to higher education in pharmaceutical sciences for women. In 1900, she challenged stereotypes and was one of the first women in the world to obtain a Bachelor of Pharmacy degree (prowizor)of Pharmacy at the Military Medical Academy in St. Petersburg. The degrees made it possible for her to open the first pharmacy in that city to employ women only. Leśniewska engaged in pedagogical activity and organised assistant assistant exam preparation courses for girls; she also opened the School of Pharmacy for Women (Farmaceutyczna Szkoła dla Kobiet), the first two-year women’s school in Russia preparing to the prowizor exam. She wrote her reflections on the emancipation of women in her memoirs, published in St. Petersburg in 1901, titled Po nieprotoriennoy dorogie (Off the Beaten Track). The only surviving copy belongs to the collection of the Antonina Leśniewska Museum of Pharmacy, branch of the Museum of Warsaw; the memoirs were also included in the anthology Nowa dziedzina pracy kobiet (A New Area of Work for Women, Warsaw 1908).

After the outbreak of the First World War,  Antonina Leśniewska engaged in charity work. She was a prime mover behind establishing the Society for Interim Help for Polish Women, providing aid to camp prisoners in Siberia. In 1918, she returned to Warsaw and resumed the Society’s operation. In 1934, she opened Marszałkowska Pharmacy at 72 Marszałkowska Street, Warsaw. In 1930, Antonina was awarded with the Polonia Restituta for her service to the country. She was buried at the Powązki Cemetery.