Founded in London in November of 1945 and headquartered in Paris, UNESCO—the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization—is an agency that aims to promote world peace and security through international cooperation in education, arts, sciences, and culture.

Thanks to the PMC’s longstanding relationship with the National Archives in Poland, we have learned of the UNESCO Pamięć Świata/Memory of the World program, which encompasses efforts in preserving, promoting, and providing access to the most important historical documents in Poland. The international committee of experts advises UNESCO’s Director General on these documents and their special cultural and historical significance. These materials include documents and archival holdings, manuscripts held in libraries and museums, as well as printed materials and audiovisual records that are of exceptional historical value.

The Polish division of this program has operated since 1992 and from 1997 onwards, items of world heritage rank have been added to the UNESCO World Heritage list. Additions to this list are made every two years and candidates for inclusion are discussed during a meeting of the International Committee of Experts. This body also considers items advanced by the Polish Committee for this UNESCO program—candidates for placement on the regional and countrywide lists. Objects of exceptional significance in history and culture that end up on Poland’s “Country List” are voted in by the Polish UNESCO Committee. The Committee members include representatives of the most important libraries, archives and educational institutions in Poland, and this group of scholars is headed by the Director of the National Archives, Dr. Paweł Pietrzyk.

Dr. Paweł Pietrzyk surveying some of the archival holdings at the Polish Music Center.
Los Angeles, July 2022

Dr. Pietrzyk visited Los Angeles a few years ago and spent several days at the Polish Music Center, studying our Manuscript Collection as well as our Zygmunt and Luisa Stojowski, Bronisław Kaper, Henryk Wars/Henry Vars, and Roman RyterbandCollections. Thanks to his enthusiastic support, we have been able to profit from the expertise of Polish archivists who came to the PMC to work on cataloguing and preserving our unique collections. Many fragile items were restored during these summertime visits over the past decade, and the PMC also received special acid-free envelopes and custom-made boxes for proper storage of our most unique and valuable materials.

Thanks to Dr. Pietrzyk’s encouragement, during the past few years we began to petition the Polish UNESCO Committee to include some of the PMC’s most unique and unusual documents on the Pamięć Świata/Memory of the World list. The application form for the nomination is quite complex and, apart from the general information on the holdings and their legal status, it asks for the listing of dates and type of objects, their external and internal descriptions, as well as their history and provenance. Other criteria pertain to the document’s physical state and the degree of preservation/conservation it has undergone, the security of the storage and climate control measures, the status of backup copies, access to the document, etc. Extensive proof of the historical significance of the document is required as well as description of its role and significance in the context of Polish culture and music. The application form also requires listing of scholars and experts who studied this document as well as a bibliography pertaining to this document as well as plans for further studies and publications. Other institutions whose collections and holding may complement this document in some way are also to be included in the application. The petitioning institution is also required to provide extensive visual documentation of the object to be considered by the UNESCO’s Polish Committee and, once the application is filed, many additional questions and specific requests are usually directed towards the petitioning institution before the application is considered.

We have recently learned that, after several attempts at applying to this UNESCO program, the Polish Music Center’s application received a recommendation for inclusion in this year’s list. It is quite an honor, and institutions awarded this distinction will be officially announced and recognized at a ceremony in the Presidential Palace in Warsaw at the end of June. Watch this space for further announcements regarding our archival holdings and their place on the world stage!

[Source: press release; Photo: Krysta Close (PMC Collection)]