Long-awaited Polish History Museum finally opens to become Poland’s largest cultural facility
The long-awaited Polish History Museum has finally arrived, with the monumental cultural institution opening its doors today.
Spanning over 45,000 square meters, with an exhibition area of approximately 8,000 square meters and six levels, the museum is now Poland's largest cultural facility.
Situated at the heart of Warsaw's citadel, a historic site that once served as a tsarist fortress built as a punishment to Poles after the failed November Uprising of 1830, the museum now stands as a symbol of Poland's 1,000-year-old heritage.
Outside, the building’s facade is lined with tonnes of Portuguese marble featuring engravings connected to Polish history, such as the famous doors of the cathedral in Gniezno.
Inside, as well as an exhibition space, the building features an auditorium for 580 people and a screening room for 130.
The concept for the institution goes back to 2006. For years, the right spot was sought for the museum with the Saxon Palace, Wilanów and along the Łazienkowska Route being considered, until finally opting for the Warsaw Citadel.
After selecting a design prepared by architects WXCA, the first shovel was driven into the ground in 2018.
Although the official inauguration is scheduled for today, the permanent exhibition will take a further three years to build.
In the interim, visitors, who are granted free entry for the first three days, can explore the temporary exhibition, titled "Big and Small Stories."
The museum boasts that the exhibition showcases over 500 of the most interesting exhibits from its growing collection, which includes over 60,000 objects, as well as tells the story about how the museum arose and the background to its special location.
Among the remarkable exhibits is the remains of a Warsaw palace pillaged during the Swedish Deluge, a tumultuous period where parts of the palace were meticulously looted and taken to Sweden.
These were recovered years later after archaeologists found that one of the boats used to take the loot had sunk and were able to unearth fragments of the Villa Regia from the depths of the Vistula.
Another captivating artifact on display is the original "Polish" Enigma cipher machine. As museum director Robert Kostro said, "It is not just a beautiful object; it symbolizes the Polish contribution to the victory over Hitler's Germany."
A remarkable exhibit that poignantly links Poland's past to contemporary global events is the rear body panel of a car riddled with bullet holes, a stark reminder of the early days of Russia's aggression in Ukraine.
The very vehicle, belonging to a Ukrainian doctor, was repaired at no cost by a benevolent Warsaw garage. The artifact symbolizes the extraordinary solidarity demonstrated by the Polish people toward their neighbours in the face of aggression from a shared historical adversary.
Other notable exhibits include the manhole leading to the secret Żoliborz Home Army radio station at 4 Forteczna Street, known as the "submarine," and the last will and tape recording of Ryszard Siwiec, who self-immolated at the Ten-Year Stadium in Warsaw in protest against the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968.
The permanent exhibition will be open to the public in 2026 and will tell the story of the over 1,000-year history of the Polish nation and state, from the second half of the 10th to the 21st century.
The crowning glory of the building is the viewing terrace, which offers an impressive panorama of Warsaw.
Throughout the weekend, the museum will host events to accompany the launch of its new headquarters.