Collect, Preserve & Promote

The Archives hold a vast collection of extremely important historic papers. Including the Underground Movement archives, the document archive fills approximately 2 kilometres of shelf space.

The documents mainly cover the following historical episodes.

The Second World War

The Inter war period

The period in exile between 1945 and 1990

The Polish Underground State

The 19th Century and earlier

More than 800 private and themed collections

Diaries and chronicles

The Archives hold a vast collection of papers that are of the highest historical importance.  Including the Underground Movement archives, there are approximately 2 kilometres of shelves that contain archival documents that pertain, predominantly, to the following periods.

  • Poland’s participation and role in the Second World War.  Documents relate to military, civilian and political affairs, starting with the 1939 Polish September Campaign and include the Polish Government and its administration, the Chancellery of the President of the Republic, the Council of Ministers, the National Council (parliament in exile) as well as individual ministries, embassies, legations and commissions. Documents span the Polish Armed Forces and deal with the Commander-in-Chief’s Secretariat, General Staff, Ministry of National Defence, army corps, divisions, regiments, battalions, companies, military schools and institutions. There are also large collections of written depositions concerning the 1939 Polish Campaign, unit daily orders and unit war diaries and chronicles. The Polish Navy and the Polish Air Force papers form separate subsections. For these, the documents range from the two respective headquarters, through to the papers of individual squadrons and warships, together with the non-frontline units.
  • The Inter war period.
  • The period of exile, between 1945 and 1990. Inter alia, the papers of the Polish Government in Exile, that resided in London between 1945 and 1990, together with papers of many other organisations and of individuals.
  • The Polish Underground State, including documents that pertain to the participation of the Polish Cichociemni unit (The Silent and Unseen) in the Special Operations Executive ( S.O.E. ). These documents are predominantly housed with the Institute’s sister organisation, the Polish Underground Movement Study Trust.
  • The 19th Century and earlier – the oldest document dates back to the 15th Century.
  • More than 800 private and themed collections – those donated by individuals and their families: politicians, diplomats, military figures, academics, authors, artists, actors, schools, scouting, youth and community organisations, etc.
  • Diaries and chronicles that were kept by military units, civilian organisations, etc.


Samples from the Archive

The Institute employs a small staff, headed by the Keeper of Archives who is assisted by a deputy and four part-time staff.  This team manages the Archives and they are supported in their work by approximately 15 active volunteers.

Since the establishment of the Institute there have been four Keepers of Archives:
1. Dr. Edmund Oppman (1945-1951)
2. Regina Oppman (1951-1980)
3. Capt. Wacław Milewski (1980-1989)
4. Dr. Andrzej Suchcitz (1989- )

As with the rest of the Institute, the Archive Department’s main role with respect to the Archive is to “acquire, preserve and make accessible”. To that end, a digitalisation program is in progress. The Archives continue to grow, with a steady flow of donations of various materials that range from individual family documents to large collections of organisational or personal papers. If you possess any documents that need a good home, please consider donating them to PISM.

Annually, approximately 350 to 400 researchers use the Archives in person, in addition to approximately 400 enquires that are received in writing.

The Archives Department is also responsible for the Institute’s published works, for example “Documents of Polish Soviet Affairs”, Polskie Siły Zbrojne w Drugiej Wojnie Światowej” (The Polish Armed Forces during World War Two), “Materiały”, etc.

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The Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum is a registered charity (no. 312168) and other than funds that we generate through our activities, we are totally reliant on membership, donations and legacies to enable us to carry on with our work.