WILLI DROST: THE LAST DIRECTOR OF THE STADTMUSEUM (CITY MUSEUM) IN GDAŃSK
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As much as the history of the Free City of Danzig (1920–1939) has been dedicated numerous academic studies, the activity of its institutions and people, particularly Gdańsk residents of German nationality who played a significant role in the city’s political, cultural, scientific, educational, and spiritual life until 1945 has been hardly investigated. One of such individuals is Willi Drost born in Gdańsk in 1892. Following his studies and academic work in Leipzig, Marburg, Cologne, and Konigsberg, in 1930 he returned to Gdańsk, where he was offered the position of a custodian and later conservator of monuments of the Free City of Gdańsk; furthermore, as of 1938 he was appointed Director of the City Museum, which he remained uninterruptedly until 1945. Beginning from 1930, he was also professor of art history at the Technischer Hochschule, engineering university, as well as curator of Museum Collections for the whole region of Gdańsk – Western Prussia. His scholarly activity yielded numerous publications in art theory, North European modern painting, and Gdańsk art. Furthermore, Drost takes credit for the inventory of Gdańsk historic churches conducted from 1934 onwards. Resorting to the preserved materials, in 1957–1964, Drost published a 5-volume series titled Art Monuments of the City of Gdańsk (Kunstdenkmäler der Stadt Danzig). During WW II, together with Prof. Erich Volmar, he supervised the action of protecting and evacuating art works from the City Museum, Town Hall’s Red Room, Artus Manor, Uphagen’s House, as well as from churches and other historic facilities. Directly following the end of WW II, Drost stayed on in Gdańsk, helping Polish art historians to recover art works hidden in the city and its vicinity. Having left for Germany in the spring of 1946, he was professor at Hamburg and Tubingen universities. Until his last days he continued to promote the cultural heritage of Gdańsk. In recognition of his merits, Drost was honoured with numerous awards in Germany, while in 1992, on the 100th anniversary of his Birthday, a plaque commemorating him was unveiled in front of the building of the former City Museum (Stadtmuseum), today housing the National Museum in Gdańsk. The paper’s goal is to popularize Drost’s endeavours as a museologist, and to recall all he did for Gdańsk.
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