The Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum / Instytut Polski i Muzeum im. gen. Sikorskiego

  • Sikorski Institute


20 Prince's Gate
United Kingdom


+44 207 589 9249


The underlying reason for the creation of the Gen. Sikorski Polish Institute in London was the events of September 1939, which forced the government of the Republic of Poland into exile. Then, in February 1945, after the Yalta conference, it became clear that the Allies intended to cease to recognize the Polish Government-in-Exile and its armed forces. It seemed obvious that many Poles would want to remain in the West with their families. It was thus important to secure the documents generated by that government and the armed forces. On the initiative of Col. Zygmunt Borkowski, the director of the Archive and Museum Services, a plan was established to appoint an institution modelled on the Polish Library in Paris and the Museum in Rapperswil. This plan was accepted by President Władysław Raczkiewicz and Prime Minister Tomasz Arciszewski, and in this way, in 1945, the Gen. Sikorski Historical Institute was founded, with, at its core, Department “S” under director Dr Edmund Oppman and his wife Regina. The Institute issued an appeal to civilians, military personnel and organizations for donations of documents for its collections. Some people made bequests ensuring that their valuable collections would later pass to the Institute’s archive. This archive is now generally regarded as holding the most important Polish émigré collections in the world. Together with the museum and the two libraries it is an integral part of the Institute.

Administrative Structure

In 1988 the institute’s management board and archive service merged with those of the Polish Underground Movement Study Trust, though it remains an autonomous institution.

The Institute is governed by up to 80 Full Members, who have voting rights. They elect Trustee Directors, with a Chairman at their head, who are responsible for the everyday running of the Institute.

Archival and Other Holdings

The archival holding today is the product of the fusion of several different archival collections from the period of the occupation, the prewar period, and the postwar period; it runs to some 700 linear metres of files and covers the period 1918-1990. These materials are of fundamental significance to the study of Polish history in the years 1939-1945, though they do not constitute all of the archival material generated in this period by Polish authorities and institutions – research should also extend to the collections of the Central Archive of Modern Records (AAN) in Warsaw, the archive of the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, California, and the Józef Piłsudski Institute of America in New York. The majority of these materials have now been processed and are inventoried. A card file referencing some 40,000 people, is also kept. The Institute’s holding is divided into the following sections:

  1. The diary of Gen. Władysław Sikorski,
  2. Documents relating to the 1939 September Campaign,
  3. Records of particular government and state administrative offices relating to the president, government, ministries, embassies, consulates and missions, and other official state bodies,
  4. Collections relating to Polskie Siły Zbrojne (PSZ, the Polish Armed Forces), from Sztab Naczelnego Wodza (Commander-in-Chief) to materials from the various military units,
  5. Over 10,000 eye-witness accounts by Poles who ended up in Russia or were deported there after 1939,
  6. Around 300 private collections (legacies and papers).

The museum’s collections also include photographs, bills, posters and ephemera, plans and maps, films, audio tapes, records, video recordings, philatelic and numismatic collections, and a separate Personal Archive. The library holds more than 20,000 volumes. Materials relating to the extermination of the Jews are held above all in the following record groups (which does not preclude the possibility of finding valuable documents and information in other collections not mentioned here):

Finding Aids, Guides, and Publication

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.

Opening Times

The Institute's holdings are available in the workroom open Tuesday - Friday 9.30 – 16.00.

The Archive reading room is open Tuesday – Friday 09.30 – 15.45 with the exception of the month of February when it is closed.

Conditions of Access

As an academic institution, the archive releases its collections for access by scholars in accordance with British law, i.e. a certain period after their creation. Persons wishing to use the Archive reading room must book an appointment.

Research Services

If you cannot find the required documents online, or you are unable to come to the Institute in person, you can ask the highly experienced staff to carry out a limited search for you. You can email your enquiry or send it by post. Alternatively, you can fill in the electronic form.

All postal/email archival enquiries, for research to be carried out by PISM staff, will be charged at £50 for up to a maximum of two hours per enquiry, with no guarantee of success, plus postal and document copying charges (as detailed in our Fees and Charges document). No work will be carried out without prior written agreement to cover indicated fees.

You will also have to complete, print and sign a copy of the Application form. You can send it as an attachment with the form, or you will have to bring it with you when attending.

Please note that postal/email enquiries can take up to 6 months to be processed.


  • ClaimsCon'06/Alina Skibińska, Guide to the Sources on the Holocaust in Occupied Poland/online search

  • PISM website

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