Community archives in Poland - multiple case study

From 2016 to 2019 I was the PI of a research project titled Community archives in Poland - multiple case study [Archiwa społeczne w Polsce – wielokrotne studium przypadku], funded by the National Science Center in Kraków, Poland. The project was designed to collect information about Polish community archives, using methods of interviews, observations, and desk research.

Monograph summing up the project:

M. Wiśniewska-Drewniak, Inaczej to zniknie. Archiwa społeczne w Polsce - wielokrotne studium przypadku, Nicolaus Copernicus Univ. Publishing House, Toruń 2019, pp. 615.

Translation of the title: Otherwise, it disappears. Community archives in Poland - multiple case study (2019). First scientific monograph about community archives in Poland (in the Polish language). The book presents results of field studies in eight contemporary Polish community archives and presents their variety on the map of Polish cultural heritage. Detailed reports on each of those archives describe e.g. archive's history and objectives, specification of archival holdings, activities and cooperation with other institutions and organizations, ways of collecting, storage, arrangement and description, and providing access to the archives, how is the archive funded, who creates it, and what are archive's problems and plans for the future. The book contains also a detailed description of previous definitions of the term 'community archives' (in Poland and abroad), previous research of the phenomenon, current situation of and around community archives in Poland, as well as extensive description of methodology and research process. The monograph is based on my PhD dissertation defenced in May 2018 at the Faculty of History, Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń, Poland. The research was funded by the National Science Center in Kraków, Poland (grant no. 2015/19/N/HS3/02466).

Table of contents:


Chapter 1: The term "community archive" - analysis of English-language and Polish definitions 

Chapter 2: Previous research on community archives (in Poland and abroad)

Chapter 3: Theory and methodology

Chapter 4: Case report: Cyfrowe Archiwum Łodzian Miastograf.pl (Digital Archive of Łódź Citizens Miastograf.pl)

The Digital Archive of Łódź Citizens Miastograf.pl is a grassroots project initiated by young residents of Łódź, a city in middle Poland, whose aim is to collect and share information about past Łódź - primarily in the form of oral history recordings and copies of photographs of the city in the past. The idea of the initiative is based on presenting the past of the city from the bottom-up, "ordinary person" perspective.

Chapter 5: Case report: Bronowickie Archiwum Społeczne (Community Archive in Bronowice)

The Community Archive in Bronowice is a digital community archive, which includes oral history interviews of residents of Bronowice and copies of documents they provided (mainly photographs) about the history of everyday life and traditions of Bronowice - once a village near Kraków, now part of the city of Kraków.

Chapter 6: Case report: Archiwum Południowo-Wschodniego Instytutu Naukowego (Archive of the Southeast Scientific Institute in Przemyśl)

The Southeast Scientific Institute in Przemyśl is an association formed on the canvas of the Scientific Station of the Polish Historical Society Branch in Przemyśl. The Institute is an information center running a scientific library, which collections mainly concern Ukrainian studies. The other fields of Institutes's activity are research and publishing. The Institute organizes conferences and scientific symposia, as well as various educational projects for school and academic youth, and also provides assistance to those involved in research of Ukraine or in Ukraine. The archives held by the Institute are the organization's own records, as well as materials taken over from the Polish Historical Society, and donations related to the Institute's interest, including private individuals' archives.

Chapter 7: Case report: Fundacja Generał Elżbiety Zawackiej. Archiwum i Muzeum Pomorskie Armii Krajowej oraz Wojskowej Służby Polek (General Elżbieta Zawacka Foundation. Archive and Museum of the Home Army and Polish Women Military Service)

The General Elżbieta Zawacka Foundation was formally established in 1990, however documentary activities and work methods were initiated as activity undertaken by Elżbieta Zawacka at the end of the 1960s. The Foundation's archives include materials on three main topics: history of the military conspiracy in Pomerania, history of Polish military service and history of the Foreign Communications Department of the Home Army. The most important part of the archives are personal files (several thousand in total), showing these three issues through the prism of the personal fate of Pomeranian conspirators, women soldiers and Home Army couriers. The Foundation also has museum and vast library collections. The Foundation conducts lively educational activities, organizes lectures, workshops, scientific and popular science conferences, as well as publishes biographical dictionaries and materials from organized meetings.

Chapter 8: Case report: Archiwum Stowarzyszenia „Opowiadacze Historii Dolnego Miasta w Gdańsku” (Archive of Association "History Tellers from the Lower City in Gdańsk")

The Association "History Tellers from the Lower City in Gdańsk" deals with documenting the history and present of the Lower City (one of districts in Gdańsk's downtown) as well as extensive activities for revitalizing the Lower City and improving its image. As part of their activities, members of the Association record memories of the district, collect copies of photographs from family albums, buy postcards and pre-war photographs of the Lower City. The Association has published a total of six subjective guides to the Lower City and a book about the history of the district until 1945. In the summer, History Tellers play the role of local guides, organizing alternative walks around the district.

Chapter 9: Case report: Obywatelskie Archiwum Podkowy Leśnej (Civic Archive in Podkowa Leśna)

The Civic Archive in Podkowa Leśna (a satellite town close to Warsaw) is part of the Society of Friends of the Garden-City Podkowa Leśna; the Society has got pre-war traditions. The materials collected in the archive relate in particular to the history of the town (founded in the interwar period) and the democratic anti-communist opposition of the 1970s and 1980s. A large part of the archive was professionally processed as part of a subsidy from the State Archives.

Chapter 10: Case report: Archiwum Fundacji Archeologia Fotografii (Archive of Archeology of Photography Foundation)

The Archeology of Photography Foundation was established in Warsaw in 2008. Currently, it stores the photographic archives of twelve outstanding Polish photographers operating in the 20th century, including Zofia Chomętowska, Wojciech Zamecznik, Mariusz Hermanowicz, Antoni Zdebiak, Andrzej Georgiew. The Foundation owns only the Chomętowska's archive - the remaining collections are deposits. The Foundation undertakes numerous activities around photographic archives - exhibitions, workshops, meetings; the organization has also published many exhibition catalogs and albums.

Chapter 11: Case report: Klub Historyczny LGBTQIA Fem (LGBTQIA Fem History Club)

The LGBTQIA Fem History Club operates as part of the Q Foundation in Warsaw, documenting history of non-heteronormative people in Poland and history of feminism. The archive consists of materials from the 20th and 21st century - including leaflets, brochures, zines, magazines, books, photographs, traditional records, oral history interviews.

Chapter 12: Cross-case analysis

Each case report (chapters 4-11) comprises of the following sections:

1 - Introduction

1A - Archive's name

1B - Short description of the project

1C - Participant (interviewee)'s data

1D - Ways of collecting data 

1E - Comments

2 - Project's profile

2A - Name of organization responsible for the archive

2B - Subject of archival holdings

2C - Location and area of operation

2D - Date of creation

3 - Beginnings

4 - Purposes (aims) of the archive

5 - Headquarters (seat)

6 - Character of archival holdings

6A - Paper/digital 

6B - Size 

6C - Formats and physical character 

7 - Actions taken by the archive

7A - Exhibitions

7B - Confreneces, meetings, workshops, lessons, lectures…

7C - Games, competitions, archival tourism…

7D - Publishing activity

7E - Others

8 - Structure and cooperation

8A - Type of organization

8B - Ways of managing

8C - Cooperating institutions and organizations

9 - Funding

10 - People engaged in creating the archive

10A - Number of people engaged

10B - Functions

10C - Type of cooperation with the archive (volunteer, employed, practicum, training, other)

10D - Ways to gain volunteers  

11 - Collecting archival materials

11A- Who does that?

11B - Ways of collecting materials/reaching donors

11C - Acquisition registers

11D - Archival selection

11E - Wheather original materials or copies are collected

11F - Ways of acquisition (offering, deposit, loan, other)

12 - Storage of archival materials

12A - Storage conditions

12B - Tools and equipment

12C - Additional comments

13 - Arrangement and description of archival materials

13A - Finding aids

13B - Structure of the holdings

13C - Signatures

13D - Aid materials (eg. using some professional regulations or standards for archival processing)

13E - Information system (if the archive created an individual, separate information system)

13F - Additional comments

14 - Providing access to archival materials

14A - Ways of providing access

14B - Archival queries (ordered by users)

14C - Assesment of accessibility and its limitations

14D - Number of users

14E - Types of users

14F - Ways of registering users

15 - Problems 

16 - Future plans

16A - Conduct with archival materials in case of closing the organization

17 - Engagement in the community archives movement 

18 - Significance assessment

18A - Value of archival holdings

18B - Impact on local (or other) community

18C - Possible impact on archives' general image

18D - Project's stability/sustainability

18E - Others

Description of the project in English:

M. Wiśniewska-Drewniak, Community archives in Poland - multiple case study: description of the research project, pp. 18 [published: 3.11.2016].

Case reports:

M. Wiśniewska-Drewniak, Miastograf – Cyfrowe Archiwum Łodzian – szkic raportu z badania pilotażowego, pp. 35 [published: 4.01.2017].

M. Wiśniewska-Drewniak, Bronowickie Archiwum Społeczne – raport z badania terenowego, pp. 31 [published: 9.02.2017].

M. Wiśniewska-Drewniak, Południowo-Wschodni Instytut Naukowy w Przemyślu – raport z badania terenowego, pp. 51 [published: 17.07.2017].

M. Wiśniewska-Drewniak, Archiwum Stowarzyszenia „Opowiadacze Historii Dolnego Miasta w Gdańsku” – raport z badania terenowego, pp. 39 [published: 8.02.2018].

M. Wiśniewska-Drewniak, Obywatelskie Archiwum Podkowy Leśnej – raport z badania terenowego, pp. 39 [published: 28.02.2018].

M. Wiśniewska-Drewniak, Fundacja Generał Elżbiety Zawackiej. Archiwum i Muzeum Pomorskie Armii Krajowej oraz Wojskowej Służby Polek – raport z badania terenowego, pp. 66 [published: 8.03.2018].

M. Wiśniewska-Drewniak, Archiwum Fundacji Archeologia Fotografii – raport z badania terenowego, pp. 61 [published: 21.03.2018].

M. Wiśniewska-Drewniak, Klub Historyczny LGBTQIA Fem – raport z badania terenowego, pp. 22 [published: 23.08.2019].