Going underground is always a political decision. The world below opposes the one on the surface and undermines its order, creating an alternative underground realm. Polish history over the last 200 years illustrates well the interaction between the surface and the underground—succeeding generations of oppositionists, debaters, and conspirers, who refuse to submit to conquerors, occupiers, and enemy powers, ensure the continuity of a ‘Polish underground state,’ which probably constitutes one of the key elements of the Polish identity.

To go underground also means to step into the realm of the dead. It is to delve into the debris of a past that is buried far below the surface to find building blocks for constructing a future, or, conversely, for reconstructing history. These two contradictory political applications of archaeology emerged—as mirror images—during the Enlightenment and have survived until this day.

The Print Room collection contains various images of phantasmic archaeology and fantasies of the underground world. Among the exhibits you will find the designs and drafts for a utopian underground garden for Franciszek Ksawery Branicki, a member of the Targowica Confederation and an opponent of the Constitution of 3 May. There are also traces of the archaeological interests of Stanisław Kostka Potocki—the pioneer of both the history of art in Poland, and a politician and a thinker of the Age of Enlightenment. A different vision of archaeology leads to a different definition of what is political. Just like the artists and thinkers of the Age of Enlightenment the Sarmatian tradition also turned to the antiquity, looking for its roots.