At 7,300 square meters in size, the permanent exhibition of the Polish History Museum will be the largest historical exposition in Poland.
Its script has been developed by a team of the PHM’s historians supported by eminent researchers from leading academic centres and the Polish Academy of Science. The exhibition has been designed by the WWAA/Platige Image consortium, which won an international design competition announced by the Museum, led by Natalia Paszkowska and Boris Kudlička.
The permanent exhibition at the Museum of Polish History will be narrative in nature and will present the over-1,000-year-old history of the Polish statehood and nation over thousands of years using original artefacts as well as scenographic and multimedia effects. Central to this narrative will be the history of freedom, including the centuries of Polish parliamentarism, constitutional and republican traditions, the history of the struggle to preserve and regain independence, and that against totalitarianisms.
The second key theme is the story of the formation of Polish identity. The exhibition will show the factors that had a decisive influence on it, starting from the baptism of Mieszko I in the tenth century, which rooted Poland in Western civilisation, through the union with Lithuania, to the huge role of culture in the formation of modern identity, especially the literature of Polish Romanticism.
The third guiding theme of the narrative is the story of society and civilisation. It will make visitors aware of what daily life was like in bygone eras and present momentous pages in the history of Polish science and technology.
The circuit will take the visitor through six galleries, in which we will tell the story of successive eras: Poland of the Piasts and Jagiellonians (from the beginnings of the state until 1573), The Old Commonwealth (1573–1795), The Partitions (1796-1914), Independent Again (1914-1939), Fighting Poland (1939-1945), and Poles and Communism (1945-1990).
The Museum of Polish History will invite visitors on a journey through more than 1,000 years of Polish history. This journey will include special places where we would like to keep visitors for longer. More than twenty such sites, known as dominants, will be created. They will include, among others, the Jagiellonian court, a panorama of the Electoral Field, a city from the period of the Industrial Revolution, the Battle of Warsaw in 1920, an underground site from Second World War, or the Gdańsk Shipyard during the August 1980 strike.
The permanent exhibition will feature 3,686 museum artefacts (including 2,120 objects owned by the PHM) and 181 copies or replicas of important historical items. The story will be told through diverse means: exhibits, multimedia, scenography, art installations, etc.
On 9-10 November 2020, the first exhibits were placed in the permanent exhibition space. These include the largest and heaviest objects, such as a thousand-year-old black oak, a 19th-century steam locomotive, fragments of demolished monuments from the communist period, and a SKOT military armoured carrier.
While building its headquarters and permanent exhibition, the Museum is expanding its own collection and seeking to borrow attractive exhibits from others. Telling an extensive and multifaceted history requires exhibiting objects of various types, among which there will be:
- historical objects obtained by archaeological methods - for example, a thousand-year-old oak excavated from a lake in Pomerania, a tenth-century boat retrieved from Lake Lednica or fragments of the marble facade of the Vasa residence Villa Regia;
- works of art and objects of artistic craftsmanship that speak of past culture and worldview - e.g. objects related to Sarmatian customs, including coffin portraits, kontush sashes, tableware, a set of objects of artistic and folk craftsmanship from the 1939 World’s Fair in New York, etc.;
- historical memorabilia: objects connected with the heroes of Polish history - kings, politicians, or eminent artists, and objects of everyday use that bear witness to important historical experiences; the Museum holds, among others, the suitcase of a prisoner of the Gusen concentration camp, a typewriter from the Literary Institute in Paris, fragments of the monument to Felix Dzierzhinsky, which was overthrown in November 1989;
- prints (old prints, books, press), manuscripts and private documents - the Museum's collection includes modern editions of Polish translations of the Bible, parliamentary diaries, autographs, prints on Polish history and old views of cities and architectural monuments, leaflets and posters on important historical events, such as uprisings, the struggle for independence, as well as underground publications from the period of the Second World War, the 1970s and the era of Solidarity;
- militaria - the Museum's collection includes historical military items, such as 17th-century hussar armour, and 20th-century pieces, e.g. a unique semi-automatic rifle designed in 1938 by the Polish engineer Józef Maroszek;
- objects demonstrating the achievements of technical thought - the Museum's holdings include a copy of the Enigma cipher machine, whose cipher was broken by Polish cryptographers, the NSP-1 clandestine radio transmitter and a mine detector constructed by Józef Kosacki and Andrzej Garboś;
- iconographic and audio-visual materials - the Museum is in possession of a unique film showing Warsaw in the first months of the Second World War made by the Swedish diplomat Sven Grafström;
- objects associated with the changes in civilisation - furniture, clothing, a beautifully decorated Art Nouveau cash register from the early 20th century, a Fiat 125 p, the first washing machines, or radio and television sets;
- replicas and reconstructions - including conservation copies of key documents of the Republic of Poland, e.g. acts of the Union of Lublin and the Warsaw Confederation, or a reconstruction of the RWD-9 aircraft.