ul. Anielewicza 6, polin.pl
When the idea for Polin, Museum of the History of Polish Jews, was born, a small blue ohel appeared on the site. Around it, architectural renderings were placed outlining the ultimate vision. Despite the detail on these it all seemed somber and modest: not even the most fanciful imagination could have pictured quite what would rise. Eventually opened in 2014, since then the museum has just about scooped every gong possible, most notably the top prize in last year’s edition of the European Museum of the Year awards.
The reasons for Polin’s success are manifold yet deeply rooted in the fact that this bold project has sought to examine more than the Holocaust alone. Certainly, that chapter is covered in depth – as are similarly dark episodes – but this is not a museum that solely dwells on suffering and death. Presenting 80,000 objects across a total area of 12,800 sq/m, this is a space that preaches a positive message while also covering a wide breadth of topics in a manner that engages. With so many Jewish relics lost during the Nazi maelstrom, the museum relies heavily on multimedia, however, this has gone far beyond just token touchscreens and other flashy gizmos. Where larger objects have been lost, they have been reconstructed with scintillating results: a pre-war street, a train station waiting room, and – most impressively of all – the elaborate interior of the synagogue in Gwoździec.
Copernicus Science Center
Now seven years old, it says much for the Copernicus that it feels as fresh and as innovative as it was when it opened. Featuring hundreds of interactive exhibitions, it’s a place that allows young and old alike to blast objects into space, experience an earthquake or steer exploratory robots.
For NoM, the planetarium will host a journey to the Trappist-1 planetary system and also reveal how boffins are attempting to communicate with extra terrestrial life.
Though much is now known about the Warsaw Uprising, the fate of the civilians driven from their homes remains rather more murky. Dulag 121, a former prison and transit camp in Pruszków, redresses the balance by documenting this grim exodus in detail. On the NoM night tours of the grounds will be conducted by hisorians.
Warsaw Rising Museum
ul. Grzybowska 79, 1944.pl
And so, onto the place that changed everything: opened to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, this institution became not only the capital’s first world-class museum, but also its most important – a position it occupies to this day. Telling the story of the Home Army’s 63-day battle to liberate the city from Nazi rule, no stone is left unturned in this enthralling and emotive exhibition. Though the crowds and sheer scale can make navigation a challenge, it’s on the podium up there with the Palace of Culture and the Old Town as part of Warsaw’s trinity of essential sights.
Points of interest are too numerous to list, however, most agree that the life-size replica of a B-24 Liberator plane is up there with the best. So too is a claustrophobic ‘sewage tunnel’ through which visitors squeeze, getting an idea of the conditions combatants faced. The capitulation and subsequent destruction of the city is covered in heart-stopping detail, and concludes with a 3D film that takes viewers swooping over the smoldering ruins of the capital. Guaranteed to make an impact, the depth and quality of the Rising Museum is the poignant tribute that this tragedy deserves.
This museum commemorates the murder of 21,000 Polish officers by the Soviets in the spring of 1940. The massacre, which took place in Belarus, continues to cause tension between Poland and Russia to this day. Beyond its quite staggering architectural merit, the museum has done a stunning job of collecting and presenting artefacts relating to the slaughter.
Ministry of Education
Visitors will have the chance to peer in to the world of the current Minister of Education while also sitting behind his desk. After, visit the basement: it’s here that the Gestapo once interrogated prisoners from Pawiak. Reenactments by historical enthusiasts are planned for the evening of the NoM.
Between 1939 and 1941 just under 2,000 Poles were shot in the forests of Palmiry. Aside from a serene cemetery, the area now houses a hyper-modern museum that traces the personal stories of those that were murdered. At press time, no special events for NoM had yet been confirmed.
This Tsarist prison earned its notoriety during WWII when it was used as a political prison by the Nazis: estimates suggest as many as 37,000 inmates were shot here. On the NoM numerous historical groups will reenact scenes of prison life, covering such topics as ’round-up’, ‘sabotage’ and ‘training’.
Never too far from contreversy, this contemporary gallery is famed for its freuqently provocative exhibitions.
For NoM there’ll be specially organized walks exploring the ‘not so obvious aspects of modern art’, and an improvised concert.
Considerably revamped to meet the demands and attention-spans of the 21st century sightseer, the Ethnographic Museum is a visual pleasure that showcases colorful costumes, fabrics and ceramics from Poland and beyond.
Museum of Modern Art
Opened just weeks ago in March, this much-publicized gallery shall be fixing its focus on the the icon of Warsaw: the mermaid. So say the organizers: ‘it’s an exhibition that delves into the cultural connotations of Warsaw’s symbol and its universality in the context of creating a modern urban idenity.’
For lovers of fine and ancient art, the National Museum is the daddy of them all. On the NoM those who beat the inevitable queues are spoilt for choice with a number of concerts, meetings, tours and screenings lined-up.
Regarded as one of Poland’s most prestigious galleries, the Zachęta presents what is allegedly the nation’s largest collection of contemporary art inside a pristine-looking palace. The NoM will be the last chance locals get to see the Gordon Parks exhibition ‘I Use My Camera As A Weapon’.
ul. Okólnik 1, chopin.museum
Now reinvented as the Chopin museum, the refined 18th century Ostrogski Palace is the perfect foil for the ultra-modern content of this multi-sensory space.
The personal items are enchanting – the composer’s pencil, a lock of hair and even his death mask – but the big victory here is the museum’s ability to suck visitors right back into the times of Chopin through the use of interactive sights and sounds (in fact, even smells).
Marie Skłodowska-Curie Musuem
ul. Freta 5, en.muzeum-msc.pl
With renovation work on Skłodowska-Curie’s birthplace (Freta 16) still ongoing, fans of this groundbreaking scientist must content themselves with a prowl through this temporary two-room exhibit. Brief it might be, but its not short on Curie-osities: lab equipment, her trademark black dress and even her nail file. Plans for NoM remained under wraps at press time, though the evening is likely to involve the use of Geiger counters and suchlike.