The Gdynia Aquarium has been operating in Gdynia since 1971. For over 30 years it was called the Oceanographic Museum and the Marine Aquarium of the Maritime Fisheries Institute in Gdynia. Because the name was too long and slowly became inadequate to the function it had, by the decision of the MIR management in July 2003, it was changed to the Gdynia Aquarium. However, it is worth remembering the history of the facility, which is inherent in the history of the National Marine Fisheries Research Institute, which dates back to June 18, 1921.
At that time, the Sea Fisheries Laboratory (SFL) was established in Hel. Its employees, including then assistant professor Kazimierz Demel, began collecting natural specimens, which from 1924 were presented in SFL showcases and aquariums. At the end of the 1920s, collections already numbered several hundred animal specimens and were presented at various exhibitions, e.g. in 1929 at the Universal National Exhibition in Poznań. In the 1930s, collections were exhibited in the so-called “Baltic Museum“, which was one of the tourist attractions of the then Hel.
In 1932, the SFL was renamed to the Marine Station, which at the turn of 1938/1939 was moved to Gdynia, to the newly built building at today’s Al. Jana Pawła II 1. Unfortunately, due to the outbreak of World War II, the construction of part of the building intended for the Museum and Aquarium was not completed. In the post-war period, there were three small museum rooms and one room with aquariums in the Institute’s building. Another change came in 1949, when the Marine Station was renamed the National Marine Fisheries Research Institute (NMFRI).
In the late 1950s, the issue of expanding the building and creating a proper oceanographic museum came back. Then the first technical designs were created. But the actual construction and assembly of aquarium lines did not begin until 1969. An important role was played by engineer Jan Banaszak, who was then the head of the Investment Department.
In 1971, as part of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Institute, the Oceanographic Museum and the Marine Aquarium was opened. The museum was opened thanks to the great work of the facility managers: Stanisław Kujawa and his successor – Dr. Kazimierz Siudziński. Animals and plants, both marine and freshwater, were shown in 34 aquariums. The museum part exhibits specimens collected by the Institute’s employees since 1921 and donated by captains and seamen of the Polish commercial and fishing fleet. Some of the wall exhibitions from that period can still be seen today, as they have not lost their relevance. The map of the Baltic bottom, which is the central part in the Baltic Room, also remembers the beginnings of the “Museum”.
Further changes came in 2003, when the glass rotunda of the building was renovated, thanks to which on the first floor a rich exhibition of animals living among the coral reefs was created. Also this year, the facility’s name was changed to the Gdynia Aquarium. Two years later, large snakes – green anacondas came to the Aquarium. A new hall with aquaterrariums was also created. You can see animals living at the interface of land and water, e.g. unusual fish – mud jumps. Along with modernizing the exhibition, the educational activity of the Aquarium was developed. A Cinema and Conference Room was created, laboratories for conducting classes equipped with microscopes and computer equipment. In 2007, the Sala Mokre was commissioned – a place to explore the world not only with the sense of sight, where you can put your hands in the tank and stroke the fish. The Education Center has also been enriched with a Preschool Room full of marine stuffed animals, in which classes dedicated to children are held. The Gdynia Aquarium is still being modernized, enriched with new specimens, it implements popular science events and will certainly surprise you more than once.