The Museum Route was opened for visitors in the Salt Mine on the 30th of September 1966. At that time, it was one of the most modern mining displays in Europe.
The Museum owes the establishment and top level of display manifested by the Route to the founder of the Museum and its first director, Alfons Długosz, graduate of Berlin State School for Artistic Handicraft and Fine Arts Academy in Dresden. Modern elements of the display, the conference room, the cinema and the café made the Museum a unique place, which went ahead of its time.
However, one has to also mention the year 1949, when the authorities of the Wieliczka Salt Mine decided to liquidate a number of valuable pits in the salt mine. Długosz, well-aware of their value, with a miner accompanying him, set off to save the priceless treasures. He traversed dozens of kilometres in forgotten, dark and dangerous pits searching for old tools, mining machines, crystals and fossils. Using the collected items, Długosz organised an exhibition in the Warszawa Chamber in 1951. Nevertheless, it soon became obvious that there were too many exhibits to be displayed on such small space. Długosz procured 14 new pits from the salt mine authorities and between 1958 and 1966, a large museum display was established there, featuring all of the found treasures.
Thanks to his exceptional determination and passion, Długosz was successful not only in establishing the largest underground museum in Europe; most importantly, he managed to save the priceless salt heritage, and the collection of wooden extracting machines that he assorted was the main reason for entering the salt mine in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1978.
In the modern times, a visit at the Museum still offers a possibility of seeing the original and unique exhibits in the scale of the world, such as the sophisticated Horn of the Salt Diggers Brotherhood of 1534, an exclusive horse-drawn train from the 19th century, a collection of mining tools and equipment, unique maps of the underground and salt specimens, including crystals from crystal grottoes. The Museum Route, encompassing 18 chambers, has 15 permanent collections; there is also the Chapel of St. John Paul II, two unique mining reserves (Maria Teresa and Saurau) with distinctive historical assets and vantage points, along with an educational chamber, a conference room and an auditorium.