As an example, the 9/11 Memorial and Museum opened 5 years after 9/11. The National World War I Museum opened 8 years after the end of World War I. Was there ever a museum that opened after an even shorter time period following a major historical event?

The definition of an "event": a historical occurrence that wasn't easily predictable in advance. For example, Nixon's Presidential Library wouldn't count as commemorating the "event" of Nixon's presidency because it was entirely predictable that someone will be elected President in 1969 and that this someone will end up having a library.

Update: the definition of "opening" is that a member of the general public was able to attend said museum and see at least one exhibit.

  • 15
    Some negative number of years: museumofthefuture.ae/en
    – Mark Olson
    Commented Dec 29, 2022 at 20:41
  • Would you count events like "the first successful [something]", where the fact that [something] would be attempted on a given date was entirely predictable in advance, but the success was not? Commented Dec 30, 2022 at 15:03
  • 1
    @IlmariKaronen yes, assuming there was a reasonable chance of failure. So the first flight by Wright brothers would definitely count. Commented Dec 30, 2022 at 15:14
  • I wonder if the infamous Entartente Kunst exhibition would count.
    – Spencer
    Commented Dec 30, 2022 at 16:53
  • 1
    Would an exhibit about an event at a preexisting museum count? I'm sure that there are museums with exhibits about the COVID pandemic that opened during or shortly afterwards, but perhaps not whole museums.
    – dbmag9
    Commented Dec 30, 2022 at 23:53

3 Answers 3


The Majdanek concentration camp was liberated by the Red Army on July 22, 1944. Since it was a largely intact structure, it took the joint Soviet and Polish commission only two month to prepare a comprehensive report, and by autumn, the site was declared a historic monument. In November 1944, a museum opened on the grounds, the first one "devoted to the commemoration of the victims of World War II in Europe". It seems the first permanent exhibition was opened in 1945.

As early as August 1944, journalists were invited to visit the site. For example, on August 29th, Life magazine published a short illustrated article describing a funeral ceremony three weeks earlier.

In 1947, the Polish parliament established both the Majdanek site and the Auschwitz concentration camp as "monuments of martyrology". Since 1965, the museum is a State museum.

There is a monography (in Polish, which means I can't read it) about the early history of the museum:

  • Janina Kiełboń, Edward Balawejder, Państwowe Muzeum na Majdanku w latach 1944–1947 : wybór dokumentów, Lublin: Państwowe Muzeum na Majdanku, 2004
  • 1
    Could the general public actually visit it in 1944? Commented Dec 30, 2022 at 15:57
  • 7
    @JonathanReez Good question. I am depending on the word of the museum itself. The first undoubtedly public event, the (yearly) Week of Majdanek was held in September 1945. Somewhere I read the permanent exhibition opened in January 1945, but I can't find the source any more. On the other hand I would argue that even if only selected visitors were admitted before that, the educational impact on them is to be valued.
    – ccprog
    Commented Dec 30, 2022 at 16:30
  • Interesting contemporary article in Life magazine. It describes Léon Blum as being executed there, which appears to have been false.
    – gerrit
    Commented Jan 2, 2023 at 6:49

The UK's Imperial War Museum was founded in spring 1917, nearly three years after the outbreak of WWI, when it was already clear that the war would have great historical significance. This was over a year before the war ended, and that ending was somewhat unexpected: in spring 1918, the Allies hoped to force a victory in 1919.

In spring 1917, the idea was proposed to the Prime Minister, Lloyd George, accepted, and a committee formed to organise it and collect material for exhibition. The committee visited the Western Front and consulted with the Commander-in-Chief, Haig. The first exhibition by the museum was at the Crystal Palace, in South London, and was opened by George V on 9th June 1920.

The original remit of the museum was the First World War. It started to collect WWII material from the outbreak of that war (and had to return some of its exhibits for use). From 1953, with the Korean War and the Malayan Emergency, its remit was expended to all modern conflicts in which British or Commonwealth forces were involved.

  • 6
    I found in my research that often the dates of "foundation" and "first exhibition" are years apart. It would be beneficial if you expanded your answer in that regard.
    – ccprog
    Commented Dec 30, 2022 at 15:44
  • 2
    @ccprog: How's this? Commented Dec 30, 2022 at 16:22
  • The Imperial War Museum also contains artifacts from the Boer War, which finished 20 years earlier. Do we know that it was only originally intended to start with artifacts from the Great War (as it was called then)?
    – Graham
    Commented Dec 31, 2022 at 18:27
  • 1
    @Graham: added. Commented Dec 31, 2022 at 23:35
  • @JohnDallman Cool, nice answer.
    – Graham
    Commented Jan 1, 2023 at 0:28

As another contender, the border was closed between east and west Berlin on 12-13 August 1961 with the wall going up shortly after. According to Wikipiedia the Checkpoint Charlie Museum had its first exhibition on 19 October 1962, a little over a year later. This was in an apartment however, and the museum opened at its permanent location in July 1963.

I found this because I was wondering whether there were any museums that opened shortly after the fall of the wall - that still seems like a good place to look.

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