The Jewish Historical Institute’s museum collection, which has existed for over 70 years, comprises about 15,000 objects: works of arts and crafts, religious Judaica, objects of daily use, historical memorabilia, photographs etc. In terms of collections dedicated to the Jewish heritage and the Holocaust, it is the most important in Poland, and one of the key ones in the world. Its position is owed to historical and artistic value of the collection and to its diversity.
The base of this special collection was made between 1944-1952 thanks to the efforts of the Jewish community. In war-destroyed Poland, it struggled to preserve the material traces of once rich culture of their own nation for future generations. Collecting the works of arts and crafts, treated then as material proofs of Nazi crimes, were initiated by the Central Jewish Historical Commission in Lublin in 1944. Three years later, it developed into Jewish Historical Institute, which continued its efforts. In 1948, the JHI opened the first post-war Jewish museum: The Museum of Jewish Martyrdom and Struggle, with a permanent exhibition open to the public. The collection was subsequently expanded with public (state) donations, private donations and purchases.
The JHI Museum, situated in the Institute’s structure next to three rich departments (the Archive, Photography Documentation and Library) has never had the status of a state museum. It has formally existed until 2009, when the JHI, then an Academic Research Institute, received the status of a state culture institution.
Currently, the ArtDepartment is responsible for the JHI museum collection. We are a small team composed mainly of young people who are aware of the historical significance of the place we are working at. We are passionate about Jewish art, culture and religion. We carefully store, catalogue and professionally preserve objects and works of art, both these which had survived the Holocaust and the post-war ones.
We share our resources with various audiences, institutions and experts. Every year, we organize our temporary exhibitions dedicated to Jewish history and art, which often provide and opportunity to present objects from our collection. they are complemented with albums and academic monographs. Our exhibitions are presented at the Institute, next to the permanent exhibition about the Underground Archive of the Warsaw Ghetto – „What we were unable to shout out to the world”. Every year, we lend several dozen objects from our collection to museums in Poland and in other countries. We also lend travelling exhibitions, mainly dedicated to photography, to schools, libraries and cultural institutions countrywide. About 4,000 objects from our collections are also available online at our portals Central Judaic Library and Delet.
We are open to cooperation with everyone who is, like us, interested in the material heritage of Polish Jews, conducts research and preserves it – with researchers, curators, custodians, students, local culture activists and everyone interested, both from Poland and abroad. We don’t offer expertise on authenticity or provenience of artworks and objects from outside the JHI collection, but we offer our knowledge and experience within our possibilities.
Our collection, a shared heritage of Polish and Jewish nations, is expanded every year with new objects. We are glad to welcome new donations and deposits – objects and artworks related to the history of Polish Jews, especially from the World War II period.