The Polish History Museum (PHM) presents the most important motifs of Polish history – of the Polish the state and the Polish nation – with special emphasis on freedom-related themes such as parliamentarian traditions, civic institutions and movements as well as the fight for freedom and independence. This includes the phenomenon of the old nobility-controlled Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, national uprisings, the history of the Solidarity trade union and two 20th-century attempts at reconstructing independent Poland.
The Museum conducts educational activities and shapes a modern patriotic sensitivity, thus contributing to developing citizens conscious of tradition and yet open to the world. One important aspect is the awareness of links between Polish history and that of other nations in Europe, especially ones present in the old Commonwealth.
The PHM documents, popularises and promotes the history of Poland on the basis of research results and making use of inspiring examples of Polish achievements but it also takes part in debates on difficult chapters of Polish history.
The Museum is active in creating Poland’s image abroad in order to make its history and culture understandable for and attractive to foreigners. For that reason, the PHM participates in international dialogue with special emphasis on the neighbouring nations.
The Museum seeks to fulfil its mission in an open manner, promoting broad access to cultural heritage and scientific sources so that their digital potential can be fully used.
The legal status of the Polish History Museum in Warsaw is regulated by the Museums Act, the Act on the Organisation and Delivery of Cultural Activities as well as the Statute of the Polish History Museum in Warsaw.
Information related to the construction of the PHM seat can be found in the section called PHM SEAT AND PERMANENT EXHIBITION.
• 11 November 2008: The Interwar Period: Faces of Modernity – a comprehensive exhibition focusing on the Second Polish Republic (1918–1939), its political life, economy, society, architecture and culture presented at the Royal Castle in Warsaw. The exhibition attracted more than 50,000 visitors.
• 11 November 2009: Wartime Farewells – an exhibition devoted to the dramatic fate of ordinary Poles during the Second World War.
• 21 October 2011: the interactive exhibition The Path to Unity 1945–2004: Communism. Solidarity. The European Union presented in Brussels in the context of Poland’s rotating EU Council presidency.
• 2 May 2012: Under a Common Sky. The Commonwealth of Nations, Religions and Cultures (16th–18th Centuries) – an exhibition at the Royal Castle in Warsaw showing the First Polish Republic with all its wealth of nations and cultures. The exhibition featured such aspects as attractive multimedia maps of languages spoken and nations living in Poland as well as the country’s changing borders, rare documents concerning the Polish-Lithuanian Union and the Commonwealth’s towns and noble families.
• 10 October 2012: as one of the first cultural institutions in Poland, the PHM established cooperation with the international platform Google Cultural Institute (now Google Arts & Culture); the opening of the first e-exhibition titled Jan Karski: A Hero of Humanity, then Behind the Iron Curtain and Separated by War.
• 21 January 2013: 1863: Game of Independence, an educational exhibition at the University of Warsaw Library, engaged the visitors in performing attractive tasks to familiarise themselves with the reality of Polish territories at the time of the January Uprising and learn more about them.
• 17 May 2013: reception of the Sybilla 2012 award of the Minister of Culture and National Heritage for the exhibition Under a Common Sky for the best historical 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 the PHM in collaboration with the Museum of Zamość. In December 2013, the PHM received the title of an Ambassador of Zamość Culture.
• 2014: opening of online exhibitions Polish Road to Freedom in Erazm Ciołek’s Lens and Witold Pilecki 1901–1948 on the platform Google Cultural Institute (now Google Art&Culture).
• 24 April 2014: on the occasion of the centenary of Jan Karski’s birthday, the PHM prepared a number of events, e.g. the exhibition The World Knew – Jan Karski’s Mission for Humanity, video mapping, film screenings, a game of chess in a historical tram and a meeting with Shevah Weiss.
• 25 September 2014: opening of the temporary exhibition London – the Capital of Poland: Polish Emigration 1940–1990 at the University of Warsaw Library.
• 20 November 2014: Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz and German Chancellor Angela Merkel opened the outdoor exhibition Courage and Reconciliation in Krzyżowa, Poland.
• 2015: opening of the online exhibitions Shifting Poland: Western and Northern Territories, 1945–1948 and Everyday Life in the Western Territories: 1945–1948 on the platform Google Cultural Institute (now Google Art&Culture).
• 10 April 2015: opening of the outdoor exhibition Smolensk Portraits at Piłsudski Square in Warsaw.
• 24 September 2015: opening of the temporary exhibition Promised Land: City and Modernity at the University of Warsaw Library.
• 20 July 2016: opening of the exhibition John Paul II. The Origins on prestigious Krakowskie Przedmieście Street in Warsaw.
• 2016: opening of online exhibitions ‘We simply wanted to be with them...’ The KOR Committee for the Defence of Workers and the Committee of Civic Self-Defence (1976–1981), Passage to India and ‘I Am the Last One’: Lidia Ciołkosz – A Witness to the 20th Century on the platform Google Cultural Institute (now Google Art&Culture).
• 2 May 2017: opening of the exhibition Gusen: Granite, Death, Remembrance and Oblivion at the European Parliament in Brussels.
• 10 September 2017: opening of the temporary exhibition Tadeusz Kościuszko: A Man of Vision on prestigious Krakowskie Przedmieście Street in Warsaw.
• 2017: opening of online exhibitions Gusen: Granite, Death, Remembrance and Oblivion, The Warsaw Citadel: History of the Site, General Władysław Anders: Difficult Choices and Tadeusz Kościuszko: A Man of Vision on the platform Google Art&Culture.
• 31 January 2018: opening of the exhibition Women of Independence at the Portuguese Parliament.
• 2018: opening of online exhibitions Physical Renewal. Sports, Tourist, and Care Organisations in Service of Independent Poland and Spiritual Renewal. Cooperative, Religious, and Women’s Organisations in Service of Independent Poland on the platform Google Art&Culture.
• 3 September 2019: opening of the outdoor exhibition General Stanisław Maczek and His Soldiers on prestigious Krakowskie Przedmieście Street in Warsaw.
• 11 October 2019: opening of the outdoor exhibition General Stanisław Maczek and His Soldiers in Breda (The Netherlands).
Educational and Outreach Activities
A significant component of what the PHM does is its outreach activities. One example is a series of thematic feature-film and documentary screenings delivered in 2007–2013 titled Who’s into Historical Things? focusing on history. Each screening was accompanied by comments from historians, film experts and filmmakers during special discussion panels.
This PHM’s educational offer targets schools and families. It includes school competitions, interactive educational packages (Polish-English Jan Karski and His Times and Tadeusz Kościuszko: A Man of Vision) and outdoor learning games. These are original ideas combining aspects of an exhibition with interactive participation.
On 11 November each year, the PHM offers an outdoor event called Independence Station, including such attractions as open-air feature games, concerts, location-based games and children's book readings by distinguished actors.
For many years now, the PHM has been the organiser of the Historical Event of the Year plebiscite, the first of its kind in Poland, whose objective is to honour organisers, creators and initiators of the most interesting historical projects in the previous year. Candidates include events related to broadly understood history, historical films, exhibitions, web portals, archaeological discoveries, the opening of new institutions active in the field of history, conferences and symposia, innovative educational initiatives, games, books, audiobooks, competitions, etc. The most valuable projects are first chosen by experts (researchers, museum curators) and then internet users vote for one project in the selected pool.
The PHM maintains thematic online portals, including the popular history service www.dzieje.pl, as well as profiles on social-media, including a Youtube channel where short educational films are posted, focusing on important events, processes and figures in Polish history.
To date, the Museum has issued more than a hundred publications: catalogues, anthologies, popular science books, monographs, historical essays and audio-visual materials. The PHM’s publications have been recognised on numerous occasions for their merit (Prof. Jerzy Skowronek Award for Węzły pamięci niepodległej Polski [Independent Poland: knots of memory]), aesthetic aspect (award of the Association of Applied Art Creators for the catalogue The World Knew: Jan Karski’s Mission for Humanity and methodology (Klio Award in the editing category for the album ) as well as awarded the title of the best book of the year (2017 Identitas Awards for a collection of essays titled Powstanie styczniowe w europejskiej ilustracji prasowej [The January Uprising in European press illustrations]).
The published works can be purchased in an online shop (www.muzhp.pl/pl/sklep) and selected bookshops. Some titles are also available online, free of charge.
One of important instruments meeting the needs of the academic community is the portal www.polishhistory.pl, which facilitates orientation in the life of the history community and access to various content and sources, both online and in traditional academic and cultural institutions.
The PHM has also created BazHum, an online bibliographical database of periodicals in the field of the humanities. Currently, work is going on aiming at ensuring free access in the database to many full-content historical and humanities periodicals.
The PHM is involved in cooperation-based projects with foreign museums and academic and educational institutions in the UK, Russia, France and Germany. It has also offered a special bursary fund for foreign historians working on the history of Poland. Our partners include the Imperial War Museum, Google Arts&Culture, and the Institute of Civic Space.
The Museum’s most important achievements in the area of international cooperation include: the project titled Jan Karski: An Unfinished Mission. Its outcomes include an education package in Polish and English, a mobile exhibition in Polish (Warsaw, Wrocław and Kielce) and English (42 cities, including Brussels, Tokyo, Rome, Stockholm, Madrid and Ottawa), Jan Karski’s Days (the MPH delivered eleven such events, in Poznań, Krakow (two editions), Sopot, Lublin, Białystok, Radom, Opole, Warsaw, Nowy Sącz and Płock). Last but not least, the Museum initiated and successfully carried out an initiative aimed at awarding Jan Karski posthumously with the US Presidential Medal of Freedom, which President Barack Obama did in 2012.
Patriotism of Tomorrow
Since 2009, the PHM has been awarding grants to projects of NGOs and local-government institutions from the operational programme Patriotism of Tomorrow. To date, 110 projects from across Poland have been financially supported with a total sum of PLN 24 million.