The Polish History Museum (PHM) presents major themes in the nation’s history from its status as a European Great Power, to its years as a nation without a state, and to two reconstructions of the Republic of Poland in the 20th century. Special emphasis is placed on Poland’s pioneering parliamentary tradition, its citizen institutions and movements, and its long struggle for freedom and independence. PHM also explores how pluralistic rule evolved under the szlachta (landed but lesser nobility), popular and frequent uprisings among the Poles to throw off the chains of oppressors, how Solidarity became one of the greatest mass movements in human history, and how rapid economic growth and dramatic change in the social order occurred in the post-communist era.
The Museum’s educational programs foster broader public awareness of Polish traditions and openness to the world – especially by illuminating linkages between Polish history and the history of Europe overall, and by highlighting ties between Poland and its neighbors at the time of the ancient Republic.
PHM specializes in documenting, popularizing and promoting the history of Poland through painstaking research on both inspiring achievements and painful moments in the nation’s past. The museum is an active participant in on-going debates in both areas. It also works proactively to create a positive international image of Poland and to make its history and culture understandable to large audiences abroad. PHM plays an active role in international forums and puts special emphasis on on-going dialogue with neighboring nations.
In all its activities, the Museum strives for openness and the broadest possible access to cultural heritage through effective use of digital resources.
PHM was founded on 2 May 2006. Since that time, its full development as a leading cultural institution has been a high priority for Poland’s most senior leaders, including Prime Ministers Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz, Jarosław Kaczyński, Donald Tusk and Ewa Kopacz.
The Polish History Museum in Warsaw is authorized under statutes governing the establishment and operation of programs to fulfill the cultural mission of the government of Poland.
- 2 May 2006: founding of PHM by the Minister of Culture and National Heritage.
- 11 November 2008: opening of the exhibition Between the Wars: The Faces of Modernity at the Royal Castle in Warsaw. The exhibition attracted more than 50,000 visitors.
- 11 November 2009: opening of the exhibition Separated by War dedicated to the dramatic fate of Poles during the Second World War.
- 6 December 2009: decision to open the international architectural competition for the design of a permanent building for PHM under the patronage of Minister of Culture and National Heritage Bogdan Zdrojewski.
- 15 March 2011: creation of the Association of Friends of the Polish History Museum.
- 21 October 2011: the interactive exhibition The Path to Unity, 1945–2004: Communism. Solidarity. The European Union presented in Brussels on the occasion of Poland's assumption of the rotating European Union presidency.
- 6 December 2011: conclusion of the competition for the concept of the design and space of the permanent PHM exhibition.
- 2 May 2012: opening of the exhibition Under a Common Sky about the First Polish Republic and its cultural heritage.
- 17 May 2013: award of Sibylla 2012 by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage for the exhibition Under a Common Sky as the best history exhibition of 2012.
- 28 September 2013: opening of the temporary exhibition From Horodło to Horodło. The Union of Horodło: History and Memory (1413–2013) in Zamość, Poland. The exhibition was prepared by PHM in collaboration with the Museum of Zamość.
- December 2013: the Polish parliament proclaims the year 2014 the Year of Jan Karski. PHM co-initiated this initiative.
- 12 December 2013: PHM awarded the title Ambassador of Zamość Culture.
- 24 April 2014: PHM organized a series of events to commemorate the centenary of Jan Karski, including video mapping, a chess game on a vintage Warsaw tram and a meeting with Shevah Weiss.
- 25 September 2014: opening of the temporary exhibition London – Capital of Poland: Polish Emigration 1940–1990 in the University of Warsaw Library.
- 20 November 2014: Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz and German Chancellor Angela Merkel opened the permanent outdoor exhibition Courage and Reconciliation in Krzyżowa, Poland.
- 25 March 2015: Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz met with representatives of the Polish History Museum Council and the Association of the Friends of the Polish History Museum. The decision was reached to establish and finance PHM's permanent location in the Warsaw Citadel. The new PHM building will be part of the Warsaw Citadel museum complex with the Museum of the X Pavilion, the Katyn Museum and the Museum of the Polish Army. PHM will occupy the main space in the completed complex.
- 10 April 2015: opening of the open-air exhibition Smolensk Portraits on Piłsudski Square in Warsaw.
- 24 September 2015: opening of the exhibition Promised Land: City and Modernity at the University of Warsaw Library.
- 20 July 2016: opening of the exhibition John Paul II. The Orgins in Warsaw.
- 7 November 2016: visualization of PHM’s permanent site was presented to the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage.
- 2 May 2017: opening of the exhibition Gusen: Granite and Death, Memory and Oblivion in the European Parliament in Brussels.
- 10 September 2017: opening of the exhibition Tadeusz Kościuszko: A Man of Vision in Warsaw.
- 6 October 2017: announcement of an international tender for construction of PHM’s permanent home at the Citadel complex in Warsaw.
- 2008 – Between the Wars: The Faces of Modernity – An exhibit dedicated to the Second Republic (1918-1939), its political life, economy, society, architecture and culture. Displayed at the Royal Castle in Warsaw, it attracted more than 50,000 visitors.
- 2009 – Separated by War – An exhibit dedicated to the painful farewells forced on Poles during the Second World War.
- 2011 – The Path to Unity, 1945–2004. Communism. Solidarity. The European Union – An interactive exhibit presented in Brussels on the occasion of Poland ascending to the rotating European Union presidency.
- 2012 – Under a Common Sky: the Commonwealth of Nations, Religions and Cultures (16th - 18th Centuries) – An exhibit at the Royal Castle depicting the cultural richness of the First Polish Republic’s large multi-ethnic population. The exhibition offered attractive multimedia maps of where various languages were spoken and how the Republic’s borders shifted, together with rare documents on the cities, towns and noble clans of the Commonwealth of Poland and Lithuania.
- 2012 – Separated by History and two other exhibits on Jan Karski and on Solidarity’s leading role in overthrowing communism – Online exhibits developed in partnership with the Google Cultural Institute. PHM was one of two institutions in Poland invited by Google to participate in this international program.
- 2013 – 1863: Game for Independence – displayed at the University of Warsaw Library, this highly interactive educational exhibition “immersed” participants in the realities of what life was like in various Polish territories during the January 1863 Uprising. Visitors were assigned challenging tasks undertaken by Poles in that tumultuous period.
- 2014 – Polish Road to Freedom in Erazm Ciołek’s Lens and Witold Pilecki, 1901–1948 – Online exhibitions on the platform of the Google Cultural Institute.
- 2015 – Shifting Poland: Western and Northern Territories, 1945–1948; Separated by War; Everyday Life in the Western Territories: 1945–1948; Polish Road to Freedom and The Solidarity and the Fall of the Iron Curtain – Online exhibitions on the platform of the Google Cultural Institute.
- 2015 – Promised Land: City and Modernity - opening of the exhibition at the University of Warsaw Library
- 2016 – ‘We simply wanted to be with them...’; The KOR Committee for the Defense of Workers and the Committee of Civic Self-Defense (1976–1981); Passage to India; and ‘I Am the Last One’: Lidia Ciołkosz, Witness of the 20th Century – Online exhibitions on the platform of the Google Cultural Institute.
- 2016 – John Paul II. The Orgins - opening of the exhibition in Warsaw.
- 2017 – Gusen: Granite and Death, Memory and Oblivion - opening of the exhibition in Brussels.
- 2017 – Tadeusz Kościuszko: A Man of Vision - opening of the exhibition in Warsaw.
- 2017 – Gusen: Granite and Death, Memory and Oblivion; Tadeusz Kościuszko: A Man of Vision; General Władysław Anders: Difficult Choices; The Warsaw Citadel: History of the Site - Online exhibitions on the platform of the Google Cultural Institute.
PHM Educational and Outreach Activities
The Museum has a strong dedication to educational and outreach activities. One example is PHM’s screening of feature-films and documentaries such as, Who's Into Historical Things? which is dedicated to historical subjects. Each screening includes live commentary by historians, film critics and panels of filmmaker.
The audience for these educational programs include schools and family groups. Other such programs include competitions and outdoor learning games at schools with a mix of original ideas and fragments from popular exhibition. Audience interaction is strongly encouraged.
On 11 November each year, PHM organizes “Independence Station,” an outdoor event featuring concerts, drama and urban games and readings for children by well-known actors.
PHM maintains thematic online portals, including the popular history series www.dzieje.pl, as well as profiles on social-media portals including YouTube where short educational films are dedicated to important events, patterns and figures in Polish history.
PHM Research and Grantmaking Activities
The Museum organizes and co-organizes academic conferences. Among the most important was the conference “A Look to the Past” held in Jadwisin near Warsaw in 2007. That conference attempted to summarize Polish historiography since the political transformation in 1989.
An important resource for the academic community is the portal www.polishhistory.pl which provides web-based content and sources, as well as traditional academic and cultural resources.
PHM also has created BazHum, an online bibliographical database of humanities periodicals. Plans are underway to provide free access to this database which offers many periodicals in history and the humanities.
PHM has cooperative programs with museums and academic institutions in Great Britain, the United States, Germany, France and Russia. It makes grants to historians from abroad who are researching the history of Poland. Among its partners are the Imperial War Museum, the Google Cultural Institute and the Institute of Civic Space.
PHM achievements in international cooperation include, “Jan Karski: Unfinished Mission,” a mobile exhibition seen in Warsaw, Wrocław and Kielce (in Polish) and in New York (in English). The Museum also initiated a two-year campaign that resulted in former President Barack Obama’s decision to bestow the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Jan Karski posthumously in 2012.
Patriotism of Tomorrow
“Patriotism of Tomorrow” is a national grant program to discover and disseminate knowledge about Polish history, and to engage the public in commemorating and promoting local heritage and culture. Grants for historical education are awarded to non-governmental organizations and local cultural institutions from across Poland, including associations, foundations, regional museums, cultural societies and centers and libraries.
"Patriotism of Tomorrow" is funded by resources from the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage. PHM has been the Ministries intermediary since 2008. In recent years, 12 million złoty (nearly million euros) has been awarded and about 650 projects have been funded.
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