American cities like NYC and Las Vegas may be full of glitzy neon signs, but I have to say they don’t compare to the collection you’ll find here in Warsaw.
Yep, our Polish capital is home to the Neon Muzeum which is dedicated to the preservation of Poland's Cold War-era neon signs. Opened in May 2012, it is one of just a handful of neon museums in the whole world. The museum is located in the Soho Factory, an old factory that now houses galleries, restaurants and design shops and hosts special events in up-and-coming Praga, a neighborhood on the eastern side of Warsaw.
Awhile back, we visited the Neon Muzeum as part of a group tour and saw how creators, David Hill and Ilona Karwinska, have collected more than 50 neon signs from around Poland. The duo first collaborated together on a photography book, called Polish Cold War Neon in 2005, and the idea to preserve these now very fashionable and retro neon signs developed.
Inside, you’ll find more than 500 letters in various fonts preserved from old Polish cafés, libraries, pharmacies, stores, train stations and even the former National Stadium. Some shine bright, while others wait for restoration until funds become available.
During the Cold War era, these neon signs were designed and made by architects, graphic designers and artists as part of the state-run Reklama, a graphic design company that ended up creating more than 1,000 of them. One such sign is “Berlin,” dating from 1974, which served as a textile company, a gift shop, and a household appliance store. Reklama designed the sign and ended up repairing it nearly 40 years later for the museum.
I loved exploring this trendy museum! You can’t help but wonder how these bright, unique signs once lit up the otherwise drab Communism landscape in Poland. What stories could be told if the signs could talk?
Next to many of the signs you’ll also find brief descriptions.
|Restauracja Szanghaj was once located at Marszałkowska 55/73 in Warsaw.|
Hopefully, neon will continue to appeal to future generations. After all, neon is a pretty cool form of visual communication. Stop by the museum and check it out for yourself!
ul. Minska 25
Open: 12-17 Wednesdays to Saturdays; 12-16 Sundays.
If interested in buying memorabilia, check out the Neon Muzeum Online Store.