The Historical Museum of the City of Kraków is a municipal museum. Councillors of Kraków decided already in 19th century to take an effort to create city's own historical museum. The first discussions on creating museum, which could gather city's memorabilia started in the 1860's. Organized by City Council in 1890 Archive of Old Acts for Kraków City started to gather the collection, and raised in 1897 Society of Kraków's History and Monuments Amateurs endorsed museum organization initiative. The Archive employees such as professor Stanislaw Krzyzanowski and Adam Chmiel PhD participated in creation of collection for future Historical Museum. The collection contained iconographic materials of Kraków, portraits of celebrities and famous citizens, graphics, historical items and documents related to guilds' activities, stamps, numismatics and medal, weaponry and other material culture elements, related to Kraków's history.
The Historical Museum of the City of Kraków has been erected at the City Council session on 2nd June 1887. At this time Museum started its activities, although it was a branch of Archive of Old Acts rather than self-managed institution. Collection has been gathered in not accessible to visitors' ground floor room of building located at Sienna street 16. Soon there were active actions taken to make museum's collection accessible for visitors, however they took many years. Important event was an exhibition of old Kraków's views called "Old Kraków", organized in 1936 byJerzy Dobrzycki PhD in renewed but not yet fully furnished rooms of Wawel castle 2nd floor. In 1937 for museum's purpose the building at Swietego Ducha Street 5 (currently Szpitalna street 21), so called "The Cross House".
In 1937, as well by initiative of Jerzy Dobrzycki PhD museum organized under its patronage first annual contest of Kraków's cribs, since then it is set annually apart from Second World War years. In December of 1945, during City National Council the proposition for museum statute has been presented. According to it, The Historical Museum of the City of Kraków was planned to be "independent and self-managed city branch, its aim is gathering and proper protection of all historical materials related to life and culture of Kraków since the first ages of the city's history till the current time, as well as development of science, research and education activities". One of tasks of new institution was to take care of local tradition, customs and ceremonies.
Independent museum activity in meaning of gathering and organizing collections, started with taking over from Archive of Old Acts more than two thousands of items, requiring stocktaking and restoration.
At the end 1946 and beginning of 1947, thanks to the agreement with Society of Kraków's History and Monuments Amateurs it was possible to get for museum's purposes part of the building being home of society - "Krauzowska House" at Sw. Jana Street 12. Soon the museum opened first two temporary exhibitions there: "Kraków old and modern" and "1848 Revolution" .
The permanent exhibition in Krauzowa House has been established on 24th of June 1952, and building set for museum's purposes just before Second World War "The Cross House" has been used as office and stocks.
In 1949 part of former defence walls: St. Florian's gate, Haberdashers' tower and city walls pass between has been given to Museum for exhibition purposes. Exhibition set up was "The old defences of Kraków". It covered reconstructed guardroom of old city guards, using historical weaponry and series of views of not existing already city towers and gates. This part of City walls was used by the Museum until the end of 1950s.
Next Museum's branch established in 1993 was Zwierzyniec's Art Showroom, at the 41 Krolowej Jadwigi Street, where small exhibition "Flat at Zwierzyniec in beginning of 20th century" is set; the building is as well home of Zwierzyniec's Art Showroom. This branch is under particular care of District no. 7 Council.
Since 1999, under Museum's responsibility is Barbakan, one of most interesting examples of medieval defence made accessible for tourists in the summer.
In 2003, Museum gained another object - "Pod Orlem" (Eagle) Pharmacy at Bohaterow Getta Square 18, where during the Second World War occupation, support for Kraków's Jews was organized. In the partially restored interiors of former pharmacy owned by Tadeusz Pankiewicz, an exhibition related to tragedy of holocaust in Kraków is set.
In 2004, President of Kraków professor Jacek Majchrowski decided to organize by Historical Museum branch of Nowa Huta's history. Recently formed workshop started work in documenting cultural and historical heritage of Nowa Huta district.
In years 2005-2007 the museum arranged a jubilee project for the 750th anniversary of Kraków foundation on the basis of the Magdeburg Law. The most important part of this event was series of the foundation related exhibitions initiated in 2005 with an exhibition titled Legends and mysteries of Kraków. In 2006, as a part of the series, we presented exhibition titled Kraków in Christian Europe 10th – 13th centuries. A summary of the series was exhibition from 2007 titled Kraków – European City of the Magdeburg Law 1257-1791. The exhibition were extended with science sessions, publications and concerts. In June 2007 we opened a tourist route City Defense Walls – The Barbican: the museum made a part of the City Defense Walls at Pijarska Street, from the Passamentiers Tower to the Arsenal, available for public.
In last years our museum entered the phase of intensive development, and because of this fact many changes in activities of our organization were made. Since 2005 we have a new branch – The history of Nowa Huta, acting in form of ecomuseum. The Nowa Huta branch was deeply involved in celebrations related to the 60th anniversary of the Nowa Huta establishment.
In 2007 we have started opening next two branches. At 4 Lipowa Street, in old German Factory of Enameled Vessels, during the World War II owned by Oskar Schindler, we are preparing new exhibition – Kraków – the occupation time (1939-1945). In Autumn of 2008 in old administrative building of the factory we established the museum’s branch. In spite of the fact that the exhibition hasn’t been opened yet, this place is memorial place reminding about the extermination’s times. Our museum prepared a project of exhibition – Underground Main Square, which in 2010 will be available for public as underground tourist route to the East parts of the Main Square. The exhibition will be a combination of archeological reserve and multimedia presentations.
For the last few years we have been working on renovation of the Krzysztofory Palace which in 2009 was transferred into possession of the museum. We are planning to finish Works by 2013 and celebrate it by opening of the exhibition dedicated to the history and culture of Kraków. At Księcia Józefa Street we have started constructions of a new building – a repository for museum’s exhibits and renovation workshops. A goal for all these activities is to adjust our museum to the European museums standards.