The branch of the museum known as the Former Palace of Kraków Bishops offers space for four permanent exhibitions, temporary exhibitions, concerts, cultural events, as well as educational and research activities.
The branch of the museum is situated in the Former Palace of Kraków Bishops, the most valuable architectural monument in Kielce, and Poland’s only palace from the era of the House of Vasa that has survived in such excellent condition.
Erected between 1637 and 1644 at the initiative of the Kraków bishop Jakub Zadzik, the palace was intended to be one for magnates, worthy of the highest state and church dignitaries. Italian and domestic styles merge in its architecture, interior design, architectural details and decoration, while the architectural and painting decor reminds visitors about the achievements of its founder for his church and country.
Two wings were added to the palace in the first half of the 18th century, which as well as providing additional residential space, changed the nature of the structure, giving it more of a French entre court et jardin layout (meaning: between the courtyard and garden). That layout has survived and it is now a picturesque highlight in the city's landscape.
The palace functioned as a temporary seat for Kraków bishops until 1789, when bishops’ properties were nationalised based on a resolution of the Great Sejm. However, it remained the headquarters of the state authorities. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the palace was used as offices for public, military and educational institutions.
In 1971 it was adapted for exhibition purposes as part of the Kielce museum.
It currently offers:
- Historical interiors from the 17th and 18th centuries – including high quality furniture, textiles, paintings, artistic craft from the 17th and 18th centuries in piano nobile, with a major part of the original design still surviving: unique frame ceilings made in the workshop of Tomasz Dolabella, court painter of the House of Vasa, polychromed beam ceilings, under-ceiling friezes, marble portals, fireplaces and floors.
- Marshal Józef Piłsudski Sanctuary – exhibition of mementoes connected with the legionary past of Kielce, occupying three rooms of the south-western corner of the ground floor. The initiative to create the sanctuary in the headquarters of Józef Piłsudski during his stay in Kielce in 1914 appeared as early as in the interwar period. It was revisited and implemented in 1990.
- Gallery of Polish Painting and European Decorative Arts – one of Poland’s best exhibitions of Polish paintings from the 17th to the mid-20th century, available in the northern wing since 1998. It includes over 250 paintings by the most prominent of Polish painters (Piotr Michałowski, Józef Szermentowski, Maurycy Gottlieb, Józef Chełmoński, Aleksander Gierymski, Olga Boznańska, Jacek Malczewski, Stanisław Wyspiański, Witold Wojtkiewicz, Leon Wyczółkowski and many others). The exhibition is accompanied by spectacular examples of European decorative arts.
- Numismatics Studio – the latest permanent exhibition, available since November 2015 on the upper floor of the palace, devoted to the history of money in the region during the Middle Ages and in modern times.
The ground floor rooms offer temporary exhibitions and artistic workshops, as well as an educational zone for families (Lafarge Free Zone), and a shop with museum publications and gifts. The reception desk section has multimedia games available.
On the west side of the palace there is an Italian garden, reconstructed according to historical sources. It is surrounded by a wall with a bastion (puntone) known as the Powder Tower (Baszta Prochowa), which in 2012 was adapted for information and tourist purposes.