Polish-American Archives Meeting

St. Mary's College, Orchard Lake, Michigan

November 22-24, 1996

Unofficial notes by Karen Rondestvedt, University of Pittsburgh
(Since 1/1/2001, at Stanford University)


This meeting was the first of what the organizers hope will be an ongoing series on Polish-American archives. It was organized by St. Mary's College and the Embassy of Poland, and held at St. Mary's College in Orchard Lake, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit.

Activities on Nov. 22 consisted of dinner, a brief welcome by Dr. Thad Radzilowski, President of St. Mary's College, and an informal get-acquainted session in the evening.


8:00-9:00 Continental breakfast

9:00-9:30 Opening, invocation and welcome, greetings. The idea for the conference began with the Polish-American Historical Association (PAHA), in which Radzilowski is a member of the Executive Board. Dr. Andrzej Rabczenko from the Polish Embassy stated that the Embassy wants to promote coordination between American and Polish archives to preserve Polish-American material; not have it scattered all over with no knowledge of what is where.


1. Report on PAHA collection effort, Dr. William Galush (Loyola U), President of PAHA. Seeking to gather and place in appropriate repositories. Memoirs, small business records, records of organizations. Likely to be in people's homes. Need volunteers to collect. Where material goes should be determined by professionalism among staff, since they will be responsible for cataloging and organizing it. Make list of institutions, not necessarily purely Polonian ones.

2. Report on proposed research focus of future collection efforts, Dr. Radzilowski. Focus on research topics and collect around those. Dr. Rabczenko stated that recent immigrants are interested in the preservation of information concerning World War II veterans. Grant application being prepared to submit to National Science Foundation concerning women, children, families; make guides surveying material on topic in different institutions. Hope eventually to include material in private hands. Holocaust Museum interested in Holocaust survivors. Find research foci, what kinds of material have, what kinds need to look for.

10:10-10:30 The Polish National Archives and Polonia Collections, Dr. Daria Nalecz (Polish State Archives). She is setting up archival network. There are 3 archives in Warsaw: (1) Pre-World War I: Archiwum Glowny Akt Dawnych (Main Archive of Ancient Acts); (2) World War I--present: Archiwum Akt Nowych (Archive of Recent Acts); (3) archive of mechanical documentation: photos, videos, etc. 29 regional archives, 59 subordinate. Archives in other institutions include Academy of Sciences, institutions of higher education. Isolated archives: ministries (jealous and independent). Not trying to collect everything. Records of Polonia are a problem: in regional archives, also in Archiwum Akt Nowych. She wants to establish a new institution in one of Houses of Polonia in Pultusk. This House of Polonia is starting with genealogical research, answering questions from Poles abroad. UNESCO's Memory of the World program includes records important for World, Europe, regional history, Poland. (UNESCO itself doesn't know exactly what it means by this program.) People who have material to contribute can give it to her.

Discussion ensued about how to serve genealogists. Representative from Family History Center in Salt Lake City suggested they should come to them and their local reading rooms. Polish State Archives have been cooperating with Mormons, but debating whether to continue; want researchers to come to them instead. Houses of Polonia (Domy Polonijne) are scholarly centers, not archives. Polish State Archives working on home page, wants to learn modern archival methods. Thinking of publishing selected records and selling them like U.S. National Archives does. Nalecz suggested that Pultusk institute function as bibliographic center. Concern about sending unique material back to Poland; should duplicate in U.S. first.

10:30-11:50 Reports from participating archives and associations. Many of those present passed out handouts.

1. Henry Mayer, United States Holocaust Museum. Founded by Congress in 1980. Covers all victims, but concentration is on Jews. Filming in Belarus, Poland, Russia, Ukraine, etc. Will also film in Western Europe. Oral histories. Documentary films and videos, e.g., outtakes from film "Shoah." Has OPAC (computerized catalog). Staff of 7 in research institute archives. 4-year backlog. 1 cataloger + volunteers to abstract and translate. Interested in additional donations; active acquisition program.

2. Andy Golebiewski, Buffalo. "Amateur rescuer." Need to create sense of patriotic duty. Wants to create museum of Polish contributions to Western New York. Inventory material in community. In Buffalo, at least 5 collections.

3. Wanda Slawinska, State University College at Buffalo. "Fronczak Room" Read biography of Fronczak. Contains clippings on Buffalo Polonia. Open by appointment.

4. Karen Rondestvedt, University of Pittsburgh: Alliance College Polish Collection and Polish material in Archives of Industrial Society. Passed out handouts, showed preservation photocopy of Polonian book prepared by BookLab. One of representatives asked if we sell these preservation photocopies, to which I answered, "No, but you can borrow them on interlibrary loan."

5. Jan Lorys, Polish Museum (Chicago). Polish Genealogical Society located there. Eclectic collection, hard to find mission, looking for input. Contains archive of American relief for Poland, newspapers Dziennik Zwiazkowy, Dziennik Chicagoski, archive of Polish scouting (harcerstwo). If sending researchers to them, contact Violetta Woznicka, archivist, first, so she can gather material. Not inventoried. "Polish Publishers in America" catalog in process. Seems to be in-house list. Material shelved by publisher. "Cataloging" stopped for now. It was suggested that Polish Museum not duplicate efforts of others; look for records on OCLC.

6. Walter Lasinski, Central Diocese, Polish National Catholic Church Archive (Scranton, PA). Microfilms. Open only on Wednesdays for 5 hours. Arrange for access in advance. He can bring in volunteers, too. Importance of diocesan archives in PNCC, not just their central archives. Franciscan archives came to them, don't know what to do with them.

7. Witold Lukaszewski, genealogical researcher from Texas. Polish Genealogical Society of Texas has published Polish Footprints.

8. Ewa Wolinska, Connecticut Polish American Archive, Central Connecticut State University. Has material such as records from Solidarity International, one of Solidarity support groups (mostly in Connecticut); records of Polish Arts League of Pittsburgh; materials typical of Polish-American collection; music, photographs, Polish- American books (entered into OCLC); anniversary booklets (these are only listed); Polish-American newspapers on microfilm (40 titles; 1500 reels). She wants to work with others to learn who has what and make union list. Polonian serials collected in Poland, too: they may be able to fill in our collections with microfilm. Home page under construction; goal is guide to her collection on Internet.

9. Joel Wuerl, Immigration History Research Center. Archival situation for Polonia better than for most ethnic groups. Also more research being done. Archive has good representation of Polish-American press; files of publisher Paryski in Toledo, Paryski's publications; religious, literary, cultural activities of community; post-World War II generation; Polish-American Congress records; papers of Edward Rozanski. Much cataloged, including most books. Inventories of various collections, including Rozanski, Paryski--we can get copies from them. Their occasional papers series, Spectrum.

10. Greg Wiastek, American Council for Polish Culture. Founded 1948. 40-48 linear feet. Will be sent to Central Connecticut State University, with dups to IHRC. Has branches in several cities (Polish Arts Clubs). He stated that someone should collect tapes of radio programs.

11. Paul Walasek, Polish Genealogical Society of America (Chicago). Largest and oldest of the 10 Polish genealogical groups in U.S. Has ca. 1500 members; average age 60-65. Staff is all volunteers. Based at Polish Museum. Has yearly conference in Chicago. Has home page on AOL. Link to their site on Polish World site. 5-vol. set indexing obituaries in Dziennik Chicagoski. Haller's Army Recruitment Ledgers. Polish Roman Catholic Union birth and death records being digitized.

12. [Representative whose name I didn't catch], Family History Society (Salt Lake City). Collecting for over 100 years, filming since 1930's. 2 million reels of microfilm and extensive book collection. 1800 Family History Centers in U.S. Don't participate in interlibrary loan, but studying this; pilot project with 20 public libraries. Family History Library Catalog on fiche; available on country-by-country basis, 15 cents per fiche.

13. Tadeusz Witkowski, editor of Periphery, published at St. Mary's College. Would like people to send him, in brief form, what individual archives can offer to researchers. Will summarize on chart.

14. Maciej Siekierski, Curator for European Collections, Hoover Institution. Polish material ca. 5% of their collection, or 60,000 volumes. He has written "Zbiory polskie i materialy poswiecone stosunkom polsko- radzieckim w Bibliotece i Archiwum Hoovera przy Stanford University" [Polish collections and material devoted to Polish-Soviet relations in the Hoover library and archive at Stanford University], Rocznik Biblioteki Narodowej, t. 26 (1993). Focus is 20th century and areas outside U.S. Microfilming project, will provide copies for Polish archives. Also working on improved finding aids.

Radzilowski proposed a resolution to form an organization. Wants another meeting in spring. Rabczenko will send greeting to Polish parishes and clubs, including a solicitation to send material [where?-- KR].

11:50-12:00 Divided into working groups for afternoon session.

12:00-1:00 Lunch.

1:10-2:10 Should have been visit to Central Archives of Polonia, Orchard Lake, but archivist, Rev. Dr. Roman Nir, was out of town, so visited various museum rooms in same building.

2:15-5:00 Meetings of working groups. Chose "Inter- Archival Working Group" or "Group for Inter-Institutional Cooperation." Stan Blejwas, leader. Need to share information, report in an existing publication, e.g., Polish Review. Blejwas will take this idea to Board of Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences in America, publisher of Polish Review. PAHA has just opened home page, put links to other resources on Internet. Create union list of serials; may be fundable at later point. Need to see how the best do it. Share information about manuscripts. Exchange duplicates. Use MARC archival format to describe holdings.

Decided to begin by creating directory: institution, contact name(s), short description of holdings. Rabczenko from Polish Embassy volunteered to collect information; created form to fill out; wants submissions in electronic form if possible. Should be published in electronic and paper form. Wuerl stated that Finns have directory like this, targeted at community groups, so will know where to donate what. Should have introduction by someone like Radzilowski.

6:00- Reception and dinner.


8:00-8:30 Continental breakfast.

8:30-10:30 Reports of working groups, preparation and discussion of conference resolutions.

1. William Galush, Collecting and Genealogy Groups. Appeal to pride and Polish heritage in order to get organizations and individuals to donate. Build trust by telling them how will make their material available. Publicity in newspapers and society organs. Endorsements by important Polonians. Checklist. Profile of people not willing to donate; contact later. Polonica donor card: describe project, have card potential donors can send in. Genealogists volunteered to contact people and collect material. PAHA should make Web site about this. Depositories should make material available in reasonable time; also profile what will and will not accept.

Resolution: set up informal group to coordinate collecting and depositing. Make available for all interested persons engaged in scholarly or personal investigation, including reproduction without damage to original.

Exchange information on what have about each others' communities. List ca. every 6 months, put on Web site. Embassy will make up card. Put ads in Polish-American newspapers. Will send us press release to send to local papers.

Embassy has list of World War II combatants.

2. Institutional Cooperation. Primary need at this point is to share information. Section in Polish Review; Web site; directory. (See discussion section above.)

Resolution: that directory of U.S. archival institutions dealing with Poland and Polonia be created. PAHA will provide introduction and editorial control.

3. Research. Send proposal to Mme Curie Sklodowska fund for grant to begin process of collecting material on topics discussed. Make guide to preparing family histories. (Mormons have bibliography; IHRC Finns have guide.) "Preserve your past."

Proposed name for Polish-American archives group: Coordinating Committee for the Preservation of Polish and Polish-American Archival Materials. To be informal organization. Plan to meet again in spring. Embassy will host, wherever meeting is.

11:00-12:00 Mass at campus chapel

12:15 Lunch

2:00 Close of conference

2:15 Several of us paid informal visit to Central Archives of Polonia, which we were unable to visit before. Fr. Nir talked about many subjects. He is very much interested in collecting materials on all aspects of Polonia. He has compiled 5-vol. guide to his archive. One volume published so far; he donated a copy to Pitt. We agreed to send him Alliance duplicates, although his archive will necessarily be lower in priority for receiving them than institutions with which we have previous agreements.

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Last updated June 15, 2000.