Monday, March 21, 2011

Pharmacy Museum - Lviv

If our walking tour guide hadn't pointed out the Pharmacy Museum in Lviv, I doubt we would have ever found it. This would have been a real tragedy, because I think this is the most intriguing museum I have ever visited.

A humble sign on the corner of a building reads "Аптека Mузей" ("Pharmacy Museum"). Once you step inside, you might think you've stepped into any other pharmacy, just a little less modern. A woman in a lab coat stands behind a counter of medicines. Across from her, tall wooden shelves house colored glass bottles with medicine labels in Latin. Below the shelves, rows of wooden drawers are also labeled with medicinal names. On the four walls of the room, lovely frescos of the elements have been painted and named in Latin-- "Aqua" (water), "Ignis" (fire), "Terra" (earth), and "Aer" (air). Established in 1735, it is the oldest operating pharmacy in the city. A museum was opened in the adjoining building in 1966, and that's when it really became special.

After paying an admission price of about $1(!), we were allowed through the pharmacy back door into the museum. The museum has about 16 rooms stuffed full of antique medicine bottles, scales, appliances, pharmaceutical tools, records, and dishes, some thousands of years old. Every color of glassware belongs to a different pharmacy from the city, and joined together, they appear jewel-like and beautiful. The walls have images of famous chemists and doctors, and memorabilia from of all the Lviv pharmacies. The museum was empty besides Yuriy and I, so we poked around for hours amidst the beautiful old bottles and ancient scales. We half expected a crazy chemist with white hair and a toothless grin to appear with flasks and tubes. We followed the arrows downstairs to a basement that looks like a cave chiseled from rock (very similar to the caves we saw in Turkey). Here we finally encountered another person-- an old man was restoring some of antique shelves in one of the cave rooms. He looked old enough to know something about the museum so we pestered him with some questions. He explained that the basement was used to keep medicine cool and away from light. The barrels we saw stacked against a wall were used to hold wine for medicinal purposes. 

The Pharmacy Museum can be found on the corner of Stauropegiyska and Drukarska Streets.

- Julia

Most of the museum labels are written in both Ukrainian and English! Handy dandy.

P.S. I can't stop dreaming about an old apothecary cabinet with tons of little drawers for my home! Now that we're home, I am anxious to decorate and these photos get me every time. Been hunting...

Register of prescriptions from 1805-1807. Completely illegible to me. 
Old pill presses.
Isn't this doctor's scale delightful? It's so decorative.
Herbs, roots, bark, mushrooms... would we ever find this in a pharmacy back home? 
All the information and photographs were so cleverly and beautifully displayed behind multiple layers of glass with handwritten information written in gold ink on the glass. 
In the underground basement where medicine was stored away from heat and light.
These barrels were used to store wine for medicinal purposes.