The Main Building is a late-Gothic Franciscan convent adapted for museum purposes during the years 1867-1871. The City Museum owed its economic conditions of development to the Carla G. Klose Foundation (1794-1868), while the main core of its collections was composed of the Jacob Kabrun collection (1759-1814), which included several thousand paintings, drawings and prints of European artists from the end of the 15th Century until the beginning of the 19th Century, transferred to the city under the power of the owner’s last will.
The collections of the Museum of Artistic Crafts were born thanks to the 1881 purchase of the collection of Ludwik Garbe, which was composed of several thousand exhibits (furniture, pottery and non-ferrous metal products). The medieval Gdańsk and Pomerania sculptures were given to the museum by churches, while the guilds provided artistic craft. An important role in expanding the collections was played by he donations and legates of the Gdańsk and Pomerania families. All the names of the donors are kept by the Museum in fond memory and on its history cards.
By the end of World War II, 65% of the building had been destroyed and a great part of the collections lost (including the complete disappearance of the antique coin and Far East art sections), the resources of the library and the museum documentation were damaged. The first post-war exhibition was opened in 1948.
In 1956, the Memling triptych and some of the painting, drawing and print collections were returned from their journey of war. During the nineteen sixties, the organisational scope of the institution created the seeds for the collections and concepts of later independent museums such as the Central Museum of the Sea, the Archaeological Museum and the Gdańsk History Museum.
The Gdańsk National Museum, the main building of which is home to the Department of Past Art, has six other departments:
– the Department of Modern Art in the Palace of Abbots in Oliwa;
– the Department of Ethnography in the Abbots’ Granary;
– the Green Gate, which hosts presentations of temporary exhibitions;
– the Gdańsk Art Gallery, which hosts presentations of photography collections;
– the Museum of the National Anthem in Będomin near Kościerzyna, which is located in the manor of Józef Wybicki;
– the Museum of Noble Tradition in Waplewo Wielkie.