The Benaki Museum’s Historical Archives constitute one of the best-organised and richest archival collections in Greece. It became an independent department of the Museum in 1955. Most of the archival material comes from Antonis Benakis’ personal collection, as well as from subsequent donations by private benefactors.
Focusing on the history of the Greek nation, the museum collects documents, records and other historical artifacts, mostly relating to the political, economic, and social life of the last three centuries.
A substantial part of the collection pertains to the 1821 Greek War of Independence. Valuable information on preparations for the revolution can be found in the archives of the secret associations and societies of philhellenes, such as the Philiki Etaireia, the Philomuse Society, the Greek Committee of Paris, etc. Evidence related to the progress of the Struggle for Independence can be found in the fighters’ personal records, in the orders and dispatches of naval officers regarding the war at sea, and the reports of European and American philhellenes. In addition, the many legal and administrative documents constitute another source of information on this historic period. The most important records are those of Georgios Karaiskakis (1780-1827), Andreas (1784-1846) and Anastasios Liontos (1791-1854), Michael Soutzos (1784-1864) and Ioannis Karatzas (1745-1844), the collections of the Philhellenes, the Petrakakos collection and others.
The period of Othon's reign and the revolution of the 3rd of September 1843 are represented by the personal archive of General Demetrios Kallergis (1803-1867); information about the long reign of George I and the events that marked it can be found in the collections of Damianos Kyriazis (1889-1948), J. Stefanopoli, Timoleon Vassos (1836-1929), Athos Romanos (1858-1940), etc.
The first quarter of the 20th century is closely connected with the political rise of Eleftherios Venizelos (1864-1936). His stormy career and attempts to restructure the government can be traced through his voluminous writings, correspondence, and other documents that come from both his personal archives and those of his associates and other contemporary politicians, P. Daglis (1853-1924), A. Romanos, G. Ventiris (1890-1954) and N. Plastiras (1883-1953).
The section of the archives dealing with the National Resistance (1940-1944) is also noteworthy and includes the personal records of individuals active in various organisations proscribed during the German Occupation: Ioannis Peltekis (1904-1969), Stephanos Doukas, Errikos Moatsos, Herakles Petmezas, Constantine Benakis (1905-1962), and the newly acquired records of Dimitris Dimitriou, a.k.a. Nikiforos. These records contain references to the organisations "Apollo", "Yvonne", "Mydas" and "E.D.E.S".
Finally, we should not overlook the archives and manuscripts of the Greek composers Nicolaos Mantzaros (1795-1872), Spyridon Samaras (1861-1917) and Yannis A. Papaioannou (1910-1989), as well as those of the poets and writers, Dionysios Solomos (1798-1857), C.F. Cavafy (1863-1933), Gregory Xenopoulos (1867-1951) and Angelos Sikelianos (1884-1951). The historical archives likewise include the papers of significant intellectual and political figures, among whom are the Lountzis family, Panagis Lekatsas, Yannis Ritsos, Olga Votsi, Yannis Dallas, Kleareti Malamou, Constaninos Gonticas and Stylianos Gonatas; these contain family and historical photographs and constitute just a small sample of the wealth preserved in the Benaki Museum.
Since 1994 the Historical Archives Department has been housed in Kifissia, in the mansion previously belonging to Stephanos and Penelope Delta (Emmanuel Benaki 38 and Stephanou Delta), donated by their daughter Alexandra Delta-Papadopoulou.