Exhibition “Salt cellar – a dish designed to appraise natural resources”
You don’t have to be very sharp-eyed to notice a word druska, meaning salt, in the name of Druskininkai. In former times, a person who made a living producing salt (mining, evaporating, cleaning and selling salt) was called druskininkas, or a salt trader. It is believed that this place name derives from the occupation of local people. There is also a taste of salt in the last names of the oldest and largest families of the area - Sūrutis, Surmetis, Suraučius (deriving from word sūrus, meaning salty), as well as lake Druskonis, where the settlement began. The history of Druskininkai resort is associated with searching for salt. In 1772, when Lithuania lost hold of salt extracted in Poland, attention was drawn to local resources. At that time, the soil of Lituania was investigated and a search for salt, but not for mineral waters, was carried out. Having examined the spring waters of Druskininkai it was decided that they are not suitable for salt production, but they are very similar in chemical composition to the mineral waters found in Czech Republic and Germany, as
well as other mineral waters used for treatment. Based on these data, Stanisław August Poniatowski announced Druskininkai as a healing site in 1794.
The Druskininkai City Museum holds a collection of salt dishes - a kind of tribute to the rich natural resources of Druskininkai, and a way to tell local history with the help of man-made objects. Saltcellar can tell you whether it was made to be placed on a table in a palace, or in a city apartment, or even a simple peasant's
farmhouse, as well as be indicative the price of salt itself. As we know from history, once a gram of salt equalled a gram of gold. Therefore, only the rich could afford the saltcellar on the table. A special dish had to be created to store such an expensive product. During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance period, rulers used to have large and magnificent nefs on their tables – boat-shaped salt dishes decorated with precious stones. However, nefs were not just for salt - they symbolized the ”ship of state”. And salt itself symbolized the ruler’s health and strength, which was the key to a stable country. This collection mainly hosts table salt cellars: amongst them we see a XIX century wooden bowl from Baltašiškė (now part of Druskininkai city), also, silver salt cellars created by famous European jewelers using different techniques of enamel, as well as ornamented salt cellars of spectacular shapes, along with ceramic salt dishes in the shapes of animals, children's book heroes, plants, fruits, vegetables, and even city monuments.
The exhibition was prepared in the framework of the project „Centennial of Lithuania in the exhibits of Lithuanian museums”, which is supported by the Lithuanian Council for Culture and the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania. The project is dedicated to commemorate and celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Restoration of the Lithuanian state.