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Hanna Krajewski, Archives of the Polish Academy of Sciences

"Aspects of science archives provision in Poland"

The Archive of the Polish Academy of Sciences was established a few months after the establishment of the Academy - on 1 December 1953.  This year we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the beginning of our existence.

The Archive has a particular meaning for the Academy.  It collects and keeps historical documents and at the same time receives materials of scientific Societies and institutions, along with private papers of Polish scientists.  This unique collection creates a wide source base for research on history of science in Poland.  We can also find much information about science history in other countries.

Because I’m in Britain now and I’m saying these words in Edinburgh, I’d like to inform you what documents concerning Great Britain are in possesion of our Archives.  There are, first of all, reports from scientific trips to England by Polish scientists, for example to Cambridge, Oxford; correspondence with English scientists; lectures on English history and literature, including doctoral research, establishment and development of biological magazines in England, France, German and Russia in the background of biological sciences, as well as documentation of cooperation between Polish Technical Society in Great Britain.

A part of this documentation is kept in the PAN Archives.  This collection is called Polish Medicine Department at the University of Edinburgh. It includes scientific publications on medicine and pedagogy of exhibition posters and newspapers extracts about this department.  Apart from this in PAN Archives are reports, from the XII International Congress of Psychologists in Edinburgh in 1948 are kept along with reports about international law in 1969 and also Polish publications edited in Edinburgh.  Talking about Scottish universities, it is worth mentioning the University of Aberdeen.  In PAN Archives we have invitations and some information about the four-hundredth anniversary of the establishment of the University in 1906. The chairman of the Academy of Arts and Science participated in this celebration.

The archives of the Polish Academy of Sciences

PAN Archive collects and keeps historical documents of the Academy.  The Academy is a state scientific institution which is run by elected scientists corporation and scientific institutions.  The President of the Academy is obliged and has the right to participate in parliamentary sessions.  The Academy has more than 80 institutions libraries, museums, Botanical Garden and scientific branches abroad: Vienna, Rome, Paris, Berlin, Moscow, Antarctica. It also has  branches all over Poland.  It employs over 8,000 people.  The Archive is situated in Warsaw and also has branches in Poznan, Silesia and Cracow.  In the Archive we collect documents of scientific societies, which existed in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries before the establishment of the Academy.  In the years of slavery Poland wasn’t able to establish any Academy (apart from the local one in Cracow), which is why scientific societies took over its role.  Set up after the Second World War, the Academy continues the tradition of their achievements and documentation of those societies is a major part of the Archive’s collection.

The most valuable documents kept in the Academy are private papers of Polish scientists.  Many Polish prime ministers and ministers have had professors degrees-therefore their private papers are directed to the PAN Archive.Unfortunately, we don’t have in our possesion the private papers of the most  famous Polish scientist, Maria Sklodowska Curie (they are kept in the National Library in Paris), but we have a lot correspondence to Polish scientists.We also have numerous letters of her daughter and her son in law, Irena and Fryderyk Jolliot-Curie, who were also Nobel prize winners.

Private papers

For the archival description of private papers we use ‘Directions’, which were created by archivists of the PAN Archive.  These were being used from the 1960s, with some further changes, in all archives and libraries in Poland.  The title of a collection is the surname and name of a scientist. We always give the date of their birth and death, the field of their activity and basic scientific functions.  In the description of the collection we include the characteristics of the archival materials (the kind of documents), the way they were acquired (gift, purchase, deposit) and the date they were acquired. We also give the size of the documentation and further archival information.

Many collections of private papers have an inventory.  We print inventories regularly in the annual issue of the ‘Bulletin of PAN Archive’.  Private papers are described in 8 parts:

1. Publications by the creator of the papers.

2. Documents of activities

3. Biographical materials

4. Correspondence

5. Information about the creator

6. Family and heritage documents

7. Documents relating to others

8. Other enclosures

In Poland the private papers of famous people were and still are kept in various places: libraries, archives, museums and scientific institutions. The greatest collection of papers of writers and poets can be found in the Museum of Literature in Warsaw.  Scientists’ papers are dispersed in a great number of Universities and societies.  This is the result of the complicated structure of Polish science, which includes higher education establishments, the Polish Academy of Science, Science and Research Institutes and also scientific societies.  A lot of private higher education establishments have appeared in Poland recently.  It is likely that after some time scientists’ papers will be kept there.  Private papers are very often found in libraries, but it is known that libraries have different aims than archives.

The fact of collecting private papers (we have over 500 collections) makes PAN Archives a unique institution on the archival map of Poland.  There is no other archive that has collected such a great number of them.  The PAN Archive is unique in many ways and has a leading role in many matters, primarily in the afore-mentioned ‘Directions’ which have been accepted by other archives and libraries.

A characteristic feature of private papers, not only in Poland, but all over the world, is the fact that they are often divided and their parts are found in many institutions.  Sometimes it is a matter of luck and sometimes it is the will of a creator.  It is very important to have information about where they are stored and PAN Archive has been making efforts to publish such a guide.

Our Archive has been asked to organise the exibition of Polish science in the twentieth century by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  The exibition in English, French and German will be shown in all Polish institutions throughout the world.  We also hope for Universities interest.

PAN Archive isn’t a typical institutional archive; we keep the historical documents of Academy and private papers.  We are so specific, that we haven’t been included in the archival law.  Because of that we have variety of legal problems which have to be solved immediately.  The Archive also keeps documents of the history of Polish science in general but its collection isn’t the only ones in Poland.  Similar ones are in the possession of Universities and higher educational institutions.

Current and future plans

The current task of the archive (apart from the continuing expansion of its collection) is to develop informational functions. We appeal for grants and also develop international cooperation. We are planning international conferences and exibitions and an edition of a guide book to private papers and source publications.

PAN Archive has the potential to be a workshop not only for historians of science but also for historicans of different fields.

There are still new challenges for the archive which can be overcome with educated scientific and archival personnel.