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City council plans underground museum on Rynek Glowny

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Work has begun on a history museum beneath Rynek Glowny (Main Market Square) after the city planning and historical preservation offices signed off on plans for the facility. The museum is being built on the site of an archaeological dig that unveiled secrets of Krakow's evolution from its founding in the Middle Ages. The work that is going on now involves installing a ventilation system, using fungicides to fight fungi and strengthening what is known as the Wall of Wealth Stalls, said Wit Nirski, a spokesman for the city's public works department. Kramy Bogate (Wealth Stalls) were established in the 13th Century. They were located on the eastern side of the trade hall on Rynek Glowny. Wealth Stalls were a place where merchants sold luxury goods. They ran until 1868.
 
Once these preliminary tasks are completed, construction of the actual facility can begin, Nirski said. The city hopes to open the museum in 2009. Plans call for five entrances to the museum from Sukiennice, said Andrzej Kadluczka, one of the museum designers. The main stairway and an elevator will be opposite the Mariacki Church. There will be an emergency entrance in the direction of Bracka Street. The most important exhibits will be in the largest chamber of the dig. They will include remains of a wooden cottage and a cemetery that dates to before Krakow was founded in 1257, said Michal Niezabitowski, head of the Museum of Krakow History, which will run the underground museum. Also in the largest chamber will be laser-lit signboards depicting the changes that took place in the Market Square area over the centuries.
 
Visitors will walk from the main exhibit area to other exhibit chambers over a glass-bottomed footbridge that lets them see elements of medieval architecture and paving below them. The corridor will take them past the Wealth Stalls and even older stalls from the 12th Century. Some of the paving goes back to the time of Kazimierz the Great in the 14th Century. The exhibits will actually show the names of the streets represented by the paving. In addition to remnants of pavement, the museum will display old water pipes. The see-through footbridge is an indication "we would like this museum to be established not according to 19th-Century museum tradition but in a completely modern one," Mayor Jacek Majchrowski said. The city contracted with Military University of Technology experts for the ventilation and air conditioning work. They were selected because they are experienced in building underground shelters. The air conditioning and ventilation must be very precise. They have to both preserve the archeological treasures and prevent fungi from growing. Military University of Technology experts will also install the lasers that will be used to light the displays that tell the story of Krakow's development. The archeological dig that led to the idea of the museum ran from 2005 to 2007. Archaeologists discovered historical treasures that helped give them a glimpse of city life in the Middle Ages. The task force spearheading the museum project, directed by Ireneusz Pluska, a renovator at the Art University, has estimated the cost at 25 mln zloty. The city expects to get most of the money from the EU.