Leaders at the highest level of the Polish Government have played a prominent role in the founding of the Museum and the selection of its permanent home on the storied grounds of the Warsaw Citadel. The PHM was founded on 2 May 2006 by the then Minister of Culture and National Heritage Kazimierz Ujazdowski. His Deputy Minister, Tomasz Merta, Deputy Minister Jarosław Sellin and PHM Director Robert Kostro all played prominent roles in the establishment of the Museum.
Soon after its founding, the Museum initiated a site selection process to identify a permanent home for its exhibitions, for its educational and research programs and for promotional activities to bolster Poland’s information about its historical heritage abroad. In December 2009, an architectural competition for siting the Museum above the Trasa Łazienkowska throughway in the center of Warsaw was concluded. The winner, the Paczowski et Fritsch Architects, proposed building in an area of 20,000 square meters along Jazdów St. However, the contract to move forward was never signed. Despite appeals by members of the Museum Council and PHM’s Association of Friends, differing positions within opposition parties in the Sejm (parliament) prevented the ruling PO-PSL Coalition from resolving the issue.
In 2015, the government of Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz proposed siting of the Museum on the grounds of the Warsaw Citadel. That November, Prime Minister Beata Szydło announced that building the Museum at the Citadel would be one of the priorities in historical policy for her government. A month later, the Minister of Culture and National Heritage, Prof. Piotr Gliński, and Minister of National Defense, Antoni Macierewicz, reached an agreement to collaborate on construction of two museums – the Polish History Museum and the Museum of the Polish Army – at the Citadel site.
The new home for the Museum will be designed by the architectural firm WXCA Wroński Jaworski, which won the competition for conceptual design of the Museum of the Polish Army at the Warsaw Citadel in 2009. The firm’s design for the Army will be adapted to fit the needs of PHM as the leading cultural institution of Poland.
Profile of PHM’s Home at the Citadel
• Total Space – 36,000 square meters
• Permanent exhibition space – 7,000 square meters
• Temporary exhibition space – 1,500 square meters
• Auditorium – seating for 600 people
• Cinema – seating for 150 people
- 2 May 2006 – Founding of PHM by Minister of Culture and National Heritage Kazimierz Ujazdowski.
- 2008 - Warsaw city authorities propose siting PHM above the Trasa Łazienkowska throughway, near Ujazdowski Castle.
- 2009 – An international architectural design competition was won by the Luxemburg firm of Paczowski et Fritsch Architects.
- 2011 – A competition for the design of the permanent exhibition was won by the consortium WWAA/Platige Image, designers of the highly acclaimed Polish Pavilion at the Shanghai Expo.
- 2013 – The PHM Council and the Association of Friends of PHM issued an open letter on the construction
of the Polish History Museum site to Polish President Bronisław Komorowski, Prime Minister Donald Tusk
and Minister of Culture and National Heritage Bogdan Zdrojewski. It was signed by many prominent figures in the arts, historians, politicians and directors of leading cultural and other institutions.
- 2014 – The PHM Council issued a “Resolution about the Construction of the Permanent Site of the Museum and Financing Its Construction” in which the Council members (Prof. Wojciech Roszkowski, Prof. Andrzej Friszke, Prof. Rafał Habielski, Prof. Andrzej Paczkowski, Prof. Andrzej Rottermund, Prof. Henryk Samsonowicz, Prof. Wojciech Tygielski, Prof. Zofia Zielińska) urged Minister of Culture and National Heritage Małgorzata Omilanowska to act on PHM recommendations for the Museum.
- March 2015 – Preliminary decisions on construction of the Museum at the Warsaw Citadel were made.
- 21 July 2015 – A resolution by the Ministry Council to establish a financial program for the Polish History Museum was made.
- November 2015 – Prof. Piotr Gliński, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Culture and National Heritage in the government of Prime Minister Beata Szydło, declared that the construction of the Polish History Museum would be one of the priorities for historical policy of the government. He also assured that construction for the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Republic of Poland would be a priority for his department.
- November 2015 – Negotiations by the PHM with the WXCA design bureau began.
- December 2015 – Minister of Culture and National Heritage Prof. Piotr Gliński and the Minister of National Defense Antoni Macierewicz agreed to collaborate in constructing the Polish History Museum and the Museum of the Polish Army at the Citadel.
- 2016 – in the 2016 budget the government increased funds for PHM.
- 29 January 2016 – in the presence of Minister of Culture and National Heritage, Prof. Piotr Gliński, the contract for construction of PHM’s permanent home at the Citadel was signed by PHM Director Robert Kostro and Szczepan Wroński, President the WXCA architectural firm.
- 7 November 2016 – Plans for the PHM’s permanent home were presented to the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage.
- 6 October 2017 – An international tender was issued for construction of the Polish History Museum in Warsaw.
- 31 January 2018: tender opening in the procedure to find the General Contractor for the construction of the Polish History Museum in Warsaw.
Priorities for the PHM
• Create an attractive exhibition space that centers interest on major subjects in the history of Poland;
• Coordinate on-going activities in education, publishing, grant-making and cooperative efforts, including
co-financing, with sister cultural organizations on Polish history topics of joint interest;
• Conduct research about Polish history;
• Promote Polish historical heritage abroad.
The permanent exhibition of the Polish History Museum will be one of the largest exhibition spaces in Poland at 7,000 square meters in size. It is being developed by PHM’s own historians in collaboration with external historians, art historians and experts from leading universities and the Academy of Polish Science. The exhibition will have a narrative character, telling over 1,000 years of Polish history with the use of original artifacts, set design and multimedia that offer visitors a way to vividly experience the past.
The artistic team of the WWAA/Platige Image Consortium, which won PHM’s international design competition, will be a primary source for content development. WWAA efforts will be led by the acclaimed set designer, Boris Kudlicka.
The exhibition will tell the story of Poland by emphasizing three major themes: Freedom, Identity and Civilizational Transformations.
Freedom is defined as independence in political and civil spaces and as personal freedom. This theme stands out in Polish history. Broadly treated, this topic makes it possible to present the unique and advanced nature of the ancient Republic’s political system, as well as Poland’s determined struggles for freedom and independence in 19th and 20th centuries.
The theme of identity encourages visitors to learn how the Polish nation was formed; the unusual multi-ethnic, multi-religious and tolerant nature of its ancient Republic; how the Poles maintained their identity throughout 123 years of partitions which rendered the nation stateless; and the dramatic challenges of maintaining identity during the German occupation and its aftermath when borders shifted and social and economic structures changed dramatically under communism.
PHM will invite visitors on a journey across one thousand years to witness more than a dozen “dominants” – powerful and history-molding forces – that occurred. Among these dominants are: the royal court of the Jagiellonian dynasty, the panorama of the royal electoral square, the city at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, the Battle of Warsaw in 1920, an underground meeting spot during the Second World War and the Gdańsk Shipyard during the strike in August 1980.
Because the PHM exhibition will stress original artifacts, the Museum is acquiring its own collections and soliciting significant artifacts from donors. To tell Poland’s vast, multilayered story requires the following kinds of artifacts:
- Objects acquired by archeological methods – for example a thousand-year-old oak retrieved from a Pomeranian lake; a boat from 10th century from Lake Lednickie (made available by other institutions); and Gothic columns from the Cistercian Abbey in Koprzywnica.
- Artworks and artisanal works that reflect how ancient cultures imagined the world. This would include objects related to such Sarmatian traditions as coffin portraits, a belt from a split-sleeve overcoat, etc.
- Objects directly related to heroes of Polish history. For example, the donation to the PHM of memorabilia of interwar prime minister Kazimierz Bartel, including a console table with hidden compartment used by Zofia and Zbigniew Romaszewski, activists of the Workers’ Defense Committee (KOR) and underground Solidarity, and copy machines used in the 1980s.
- Objects from daily life such as a typewriter from Maison Laffitte, the émigré publisher in Paris, and a valise from the concentration camp in Gusen, both of which the Museum now owns.
- Old prints, books, periodicals, manuscripts and personal documents to add to the collection. It already includes modern translations of the Bible into Polish, Sejm (parliament) chronicles, autographs and documents signed by Polish kings, graphics dedicated to the history of Poland and ancient views of cities and architectural monuments, as well as posters depicting uprisings and battles for independence, underground publications from the Second World War, the 1970s and the Solidarity era.
- Military memorabilia – the PHM collection includes a unique armor-piercing rifle designed in 1938 by the Polish engineer Józef Maroszek.
- Iconographic and audiovisual materials such as a collection of film materials by Jagna Wright and Aneta Naszyńska that were donated to the Museum. They were made during the filming of Forgotten Odyssey, an epic on Polish exiles to Siberia who departed the USSR with General Anders’ army. The PHM recently received the donation of film showing Warsaw in 1939 by a Swedish diplomat, Sven Grafström.
- Artifacts related to civilizational transformation, including furniture, clothing, a beautiful art-nouveau shop counter from the early 20thcentury, a 125 horsepower Polish Fiat and early washing machines, radios and televisions.
- Copies and reconstructions, including key documents about the operational systems of the reconstructed Republic of Poland, and acts from the Union of Lublin and from the Warsaw Confederation, a replica of a Hawker Hurricane used by the 303 Squadron in the Battle of Britain.
Illustration: Visualization – the museum complex at the Warsaw Citadel area, project by WXCA.