The archival collection in The International Museum of World War II is distinct from the collection, which is displayed publicly. Consisting largely of works on paper, there are more than 500,000 manuscript pages, printed pages, and photographs. It is accessible only on a limited basis to scholars and historians by prior arrangement.
The Archives are the part of the Museum most impacted by our current space constraints.
The archives are now and in the future
With our expansion, the Archives will be a great source for scholars. There are hundreds of personal stories waiting to be told, important insights into major military and political events, and extraordinary windows into everyday life in the years leading up to the war and during it. All aspects of every country’s home fronts have been collected to give a more complete picture and understanding of the causes and consequences of the War.
The Archives are largely unpublished and have provided research for many books and, in the future, will be an important resource for historians.
What is in the archives?
In addition to the more than 500,000 pieces — 3,500 posters, thousands of maps, and more than 10,000 reference books are in the Archives. The material represents every country and culture in the global War. It includes historically significant Allied and Axis letters, correspondences, diaries, journals and log books, photograph albums, pamphlets, and leaflets, as well as complete runs of newspapers and magazines, all reflecting on and giving insight into life during the War.
In preparing and changing exhibits, and in mounting special exhibitions, as well as loan exhibits, we draw on the Archives for context and to give a fuller picture of reality at that time. We ask ourselves, what did people see at the time? What did they know? Those answers are often in the Archives.
How researchers can access the archives
Access is very limited until our expansion into the new Museum facility. In our new Museum (See Expansion), we will have a 7,500 square foot Archives and Research Center, including a full Research Reading Room.
For research inquiries, please contact
The International Museum of World War II, Administrative Office
46 Eliot Street
South Natick, MA 01760
An overview of what is in the Archives
More than 75,000 photographs. Many taken by professionals and news organizations, but thousands by civilians and soldiers. The news photo archives have the added research component of the descriptions of the content of the photographs, which were sent out to other news organizations.
Approximately 750 albums from all areas and aspects of the War. Includes pre-War home fronts of the combatant countries through invasions, occupations, bombings, and liberations.
Social and Political Movements
During the 1930’s, in all countries, fascist, nationalistic, communist, and other movements expressed the fears and hopes of segments of the population. These important areas of understanding were never collected, so the collections in the Museum are particularly significant. America First, the German-American Bund, the British Union of Fascists, the numerous French groups, along with the two opposing sides in the Spanish Civil War, and, of course, the Nazi Party, are all parts of the mosaic of fears and hopes that resulted in World War II.
Extensive runs of Japanese home front magazines giving a sense of the propaganda that the average Japanese citizen was reading about the invasion of China, the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the war with America are included. Special souvenir booklets and collections of photographs issued to celebrate the Pearl Harbor victory illustrate the government propaganda that was part of the fanatical support for Japan’s war effort.
French Occupation and Resistance
Documents, manuscripts, posters, Resistance newspapers, and handbills concerning the German occupation, Resistance, French prisoners of war, life in France (1940-1945), and liberation are focuses of this section of the Archives.The core of this collection was formed by a Frenchman, during the War and after, who wanted to document what his country had gone through and what they did to fight back against the occupying German forces. This collection, literally tens of thousands of pieces, has been complemented by the acquisition of the archives of a French museum, illuminating even further France’s terrible ordeal.
German plans to strip Russia of its natural resources (this archive was used as evidence at Nuremburg), a complete set of the invasion maps, booklets, bombing and artillery target maps together with an extensive collection of Soviet propaganda posters, leaflets, pamphlets, magazines, and other material of the Soviet home front illustrate Germany’s greatest strategic error and the fanatical defense organized by the Russian government. Literally thousands of photographs taken by German soldiers give a day-to-day insight into what turned out to be a German disaster.
The only known complete original set of the D-Day invasion plans, along with thousands of other documents, photographs, plans, and maps tell the story, in minute detail, of the greatest invasion in military history.
Extensive archives of MacArthur’s Chief of Staff for Public Relations offers extraordinary insight into MacArthur’s life and actions, from the Japanese air raid on Manila (the day after Pearl Harbor), through the evacuation from Corregidor, to the return to the Philippines, and finally the Japanese surrender. MacArthur placed great importance on his public image and he extensively annotated press releases and involved his Chief of Staff in every decision.
Prisoners of War
Many diaries and journals, camp newspapers, correspondences, photographs and drawings expressing the yearnings of prisoners to be home. These are mainly of Allied prisoners in Germany, but there are also a surprising (giving its incredibly rarity) amount of material from Japanese camps. Germans in American POW camps are mainly represented by a collection of crafts they sold locally.
The archives from Colditz Castle, the Germans’ “escape proof” prison, contain many forged papers created by the prisoners and numerous escape devices. This collection, mainly formed by the German Commandant, also contains photographs of the escape which he required to be reenacted by the escapee, once captured, or his fellow prisoners who remained behind.
A virtually complete collection of aerial leaflets dropped by planes or fired by artillery shells is in the Archives. This includes German leaflets to the French dropped during the “Phony War”; British leaflets to the Germans; leaflets dropped over London during the Blitz; Allied propaganda to the occupied countries; the Germans to the Russians encouraging surrender and the Russians to the Germans about their hopeless situation; and extraordinarily rare leaflets delivered by V1 rockets. There are also comprehensive archives of the Japanese war. Propaganda collection numbers over 10,000 leaflets.
One of the most fascinating areas of propaganda. Black appears to originate from one source when actually it is created by the opposition. German black was not very effective because it was not very convincing. British black was highly effective and set a standard for cleverness.
Collection includes forged currency, postage stamps, newspapers, official army discharge documents, fake ration stamps, identity papers — just about everything that was forged by the British. The Archives incorporate the collections of pioneer collectors in this area and is the most extensive outside the British Library.