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Hanna Krajewska, Archives of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw

"Archival description of personal papers"

Methods of elaboration of scientists’ personal papers have a rather long tradition in Poland and are connected with works which have been taken up in the Archives of Polish Academy of Sciences.  The Archives of the Polish Academy of Sciences from the time of its establishment in 1953 has collected personal papers of Polish scientists of every kind of speciality.  Experience connected with their elaboration allowed in 1959 for publishing so-called guidelines - just a scheme of description of the gathered acts.  In 1990 the ‘Critical elaboration of archival personal papers of scientists’ was published.  The scheme of the description was accepted not only by the Archives of Polish Academy of Sciences but also in other archives which were keeping personal papers (mainly in universities) and in national archives.

Searching through many websites of various archives of universities (in Europe and America) I conclude that our scheme, which has been corrected through many years of  experience, differs mainly because of the layout and following that fact the hierarchy of value of described groups of documents. However there are more similarities than differences.

The title of the collection is always a name and a surname of the one whose personal papers we are supposed to describe (creator). Then as everywhere we write the border date- year of birth and death. In the description there are also given extent (amount of mb of documents), described date of the documentation (which very often mixes the date of birth and death) and also the title - for instance professor and the branch with which the person was connected (example Khaw Physics etc)

An important element of the description is a biography of the specific person. Till now we have described it in detail, dividing it- for example- the title of thesis, wife’s and children’s names and their achievements. We have paid attention to the course of career, achievements, interests and hobbies.  Recently we have drawn the conclusion that describing the full memoir (around 10 pages of typescript) takes really much time. Last year during the meeting of Methodological Commission we decided to reduce the description of the memoir to 1-2 pages, mentioning only the most important elements.

Personal papers which we receive, are not always complete, sometimes they only include small amount of acts. If it is possible we try to divide the whole fond into 8 basic groups. Following:

I. Materials of scientific creativeness

    Scientific papers (mainly texts, manuscripts, typescripts)
    articles and reports in summary manner. Precise register is situated in appendixes
    Source publications (texts, notes, publishing correspondence, pictures, photos, press clippings)
    lectures (typescript, manuscripts and notes)
    reviews, opinions, opinions of the published papers written for publishing houses
    materials (in Poland they are very important because of the fact that during the World War II 70% of our all archival fond-mainly from Warsaw was burned)

- bibliographic reader
- press clippings
- photos
- notes
- correspondence
- translation and summaries of articles

II. Materials of activity:

- scientific and
- didactic
- publishing
- editorial
- cultural

A. Universities, academies, societies and scientific institutions (protocols from the meetings of the Council of the Institut, protocols of meetings, protocols from the congress, projects, reports).

B. Participation in conferences, congresses

- programmes
- invitations
- reports
- visiting-cards
- photos
- press clippings

C. opinions

-  opinions about thesis
-  opinions of co-operators

D. Work in other institutions

E. Editorial and publishing activity

a. publishing activity

-  publishing agreements
-  institutions
-  correspondence
-  translation
-  guidelines connected with preparing bibliography for instance

b. editorial activity

- correspondence
- editorial meetings, protocols

F. Educational activity

- correspondence
- press clippings

III. Biographical materials

For example birth-certificate, identity cards, photos, honorarium, bibliography of  own works

IV. Correspondence

A.   outgoing mail - people and institutions

B.    incoming mail - people and institutions

the correspondence is gathered in annex in alphabetical and chronological order

V. Materials about the author of personal papers

Including reviews, opinions and descriptions of creator’s works

VI. Family and genealogical  materials

- photos
- documents
- origin       

VII. Materials of other people

In the text of various institutions and societies

VIII. Annexes

Additional archival materials which are not connected with interests of the author of personal papers.

Elaboration of personal papers includes also additional information for example about where other parts of the personal papers are kept. It may happen that personal papers (owing to a donor or just accidentally) are divided and kept in many different places- different archives. We try to include with the description the full information about the places where they are held.

Photos which are in the personal papers are taken and they are kept in the photo collection- with the precise description from where they come from (signature and the name of the group). In similar way we treat medals - in Archive of Polish Academy of Sciences there is collection of medals. If in the personal papers there are pictures, press clipping, stamps- they stay inside.

Elaborated personal papers have their own catalogue.  In B of Archives of Polish Academy of Sciences we publish new catalogues. Since some time the catalogues from the computers.

Every few years the Guide through the fond is published. It includes a description of all collections held. Probably now we would publish it only on CD.  The personal papers which are not elaborated in a form of the catalogue have a description which is made during taking over of the personal papers. It differs from the catalogue because of the describing every single unit in details. It also does not have inside signature. It is produced by the Archives and for a long time it is really useful.  Archival work however concentrates on making and elaborating the personal papers in a form of the catalogue.