Polish State Archives at PMC

From July 5 – August 12, 2017, the PMC continued our ongoing collaboration with the State Archives in Warsaw, a project that began in 2012. Co-organized by the PMC and NDAP, or the Head Office of the State Archives, each installment of this professional exchange involves specialized State Archives staff coming to the PMC to support our extensive archival holdings, or PMC staff visiting various outposts of the State Archives in Poland to learn different techniques first hand. This year we again hosted Dr. Robert Górski, an archivist and Paderewski specialist from NDAP, and Anna Czajka, a UN-certified preservation specialist from the Archiwum Główne Akt Dawnych (AGAD). The work that they have accomplished while at the PMC—both during this installment and previously—is truly invaluable to the organization and conservation of our archival collections. In addition to the gift of time and training with these highly skilled archivists, during this round the NDAP also provided new, archival-grade protective packaging material for those items in our collections that are most vulnerable to degradation.

Cataloging & Preservation

State Archives, Liibke collection - Trans-siberian RR, summer 2017One of the continuing areas of focus for our archival partners is our Paderewski Archive – the Paso Robles Collection. Previously, Robert Górski had spent much of his time at the PMC organizing, cataloging and scanning the over 800 rare photographs taken by Paderewski and his household circle. Anna Czajka had also surveyed the photographs of the construction of the Trans-Siberian railroad (pictured at left), taken by the father of Mme. Paderewska’s secretary, Helena Liibke. During this visit to the PMC, Czajka and Górski organized and supervised the scanning of the Liibke photos, which are in fragile condition due to their age, the photographic medium that was used, and the acidic conditions under which they were stored.State Archives packing, summer 2017 Also scanned were the copious negatives associated with the Paderewski photographs. The scanning was carried out by our new PMC student worker, Joanna Velez, who has proved an invaluable addition to our team this summer. Also within the Paderewski collection, rare manuscripts and artwork were removed from all non-archival frames, and, along with other musealia as well as the scanned photos and negatives, were repacked in the archival quality storage folders and boxes provided by NDAP (pictured at right). During this trip, Dr. Górski moved on from photographs to tackle the personal and professional papers of the Paderewski Collection, some of which were part of the initial donation and some of which were added subsequently, a process that will continue into his next visit.

State Archives bookbinding 4 - Paderewski Symphony before, Anna Czajka, summer 2017Another collection targeted by our colleagues at this time was the Zygmunt & Luisa Stojowski Collection, which is closely related to the Paderewski Collection due to the fact that Stojowski was a close friend and disciple of Paderewski. One of the jewels of this collection is a rare score of Paderewski’s “Polonia” Symphony in B-minor (pictured at right). This score is made even more rare by the fact that the composer had allowed Stojowski to make approved cuts to the score for performance—cuts which were meticulously marked with paper clips and written out on an included index card by Luisa Stojowska. Recognizing the advanced degradation of this important document, preservationist Anna Czajka slated this item for immediate scanning, which was carried out by PMC Assistant Director Krysta Close using equipment on loan from USC Special Collections, followed by archival bookbinding. As seen below, such book-binding required knowledge ranging from thread tension to glue chemistry, and was rendered more challenging by the lack of specialized equipment available on hand. However, many creative solutions were invented on the spot, and the week-long process of many delicate steps was carried out by the expert hands of Ms. Czajka. Once complete, she was able to focus on other crucial aspects of dealing with this already crumbling archive, including: a complete review of all items; a prioritized listing of conservation needs; and repacking of the most precious and fragile items into archival folders.

State Archives bookbinding 1, Anna Czajka, summer 2017Applying of Japanese paper to stabilize cover pages

State Archives bookbinding 2, Anna Czajka, summer 2017The “binding box” created for the bookbinding project

State Archives bookbinding 3, Anna Czajka, summer 2017Stitching non-adhesive linen tape into the binding

State Archives bookbinding 6, summer 2017Getting some book-pressing help from Paderewski

State Archives bookbinding 5 - Paderewski Symphony after, Anna Czajka, summer 2017Finished product


State Archives visiting scholar Robert Gorski, PMC Assistant Director Krysta Close, Wars Collection, summer 2017Our Henryk Wars Collection is a smaller and less varied archival collection compared to the Stojowski and Paderewski collections. However, as it contains orchestral manuscripts and many rare first edition printings of one of Poland’s most beloved popular songwriters, it is no less fascinating in its contents. Due to its size and almost entirely musical content, this was one of the initial collections organized by Dr. Monika Płuciennik, our first State Archives partner to visit the PMC in June 2014. As organization was mostly complete, it was easy to do some much needed repacking of the most delicate items into new archival folders during the latest visit. Also, it served as an ideal training tool for Robert Górski to further educate PMC Asst. Dir. Krysta Close on various aspects of archival standards and cataloging techniques, solidifying knowledge that has been gained over the course of the four year collaboration between the NDAP and PMC. This solid knowledge base will greatly help the PMC staff not only to complete the Wars collection, but also to work on other archival collections more independently from our NDAP colleagues.

State Archives visiting scholars Anna Czajka & Robert Gorski at Getty Museum, summer 2017Speaking of educational opportunities, we used this installment of the State Archives visit to connect with colleagues at the Getty Research Institute (GRI) and Getty Conservation Institute (GCI). On July 27, we visited their pristine hillside facilities for a day of learning and information sharing. We first met with Michał Łukomski, a Polish physicist in charge of Preventative Conservation at GCI, who shared some of the GCI’s groundbreaking work in the field of cultural preservation and who, along with his colleague David Carson, gave us a tour of their state-of-the-art labs. We also spoke with scientists Art Kaplan and Joy Mazurek about current research in the area of photographic conservation. Next, we moved over to GRI, where we met with archivist Isabella Zuralski-Yeager, and thus began an in-depth discussion of archival description, management and storage techniques. Ms. Zuralski-Yeager also introduced us to many other informative colleagues: Kathleen Salomon, Assistant GRI Director and Chief Librarian of the Getty Library; Lisa Forman, Head of the GRI Conservation lab; and Teresa Soleau, Head of the GRI Digitization department. Meeting these colleagues and experiencing first hand their resources and depth of knowledge was inspiring. We look forward to collaborating with the Getty for years to come.


Another collaboration that was further cemented during this visit was that between the PMC and USC Special Collections. Most of the PMC’s archives are physically housed in our library, however our first archival holding—the Manuscript Collection (established in 1984)—is housed in the Special Collections department in USC’s Doheny Library. Again using the opportunity of our guests from Warsaw, we visited with Head of Special Collections, Sue Luftschein, to further compare American and Polish archival techniques and to deepen the connection between our departments. This meeting allowed us to gain access to USC’s portal on ArchivesSpace, the standard tool for description and finding aids in the US, and also to introduce the Special Collections staff to our other impressive archival holdings at PMC.

Overall, it was a very successful month with our expert visitors from Poland’s State Archives. We are deeply grateful to Robert Górski and Anna Czajka for their priceless gifts of time and knowledge; to General Director of the State Archives, Dr. Wojciech Woźniak, for his ongoing support of this initiative; to Katarzyna Kiliszek, who from the beginning has managed this project from the NDAP Department of Organization and Access; and to all of the staff at NDAP, AGAD and the Ministry of Culture who make these visits possible. This cooperation is also partially funded by generous support from the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Los Angeles. We look forward to continued collaboration in 2018 and beyond!