Memory of Poland: private photograph collections in Europeana


Polish soldiers imprisoned in Omsk

Stowarzyszenie Międzynarodowe Centrum Zarządzania Informacją (ICIMSS) collects old photographs from private collections and cultural institutions, including museums, semi-museums, public libraries etc. Digitized materials are available on the portal Library of Private Collections, established in the framework of Europeana Photography project. In addition materials from memory institutions are planned to be available from  the Museum Digital  being under development.

Among the already collected photographs there are portraits from 19. and 20. centuries from ateliers, including Alexander Jakobi’s (the grandfather of Lotte Jakobi) atelier established in 1856 in our city, Toruń. Except portraits (single persons or groups) from ateliers, there are digitized photographs presenting important, historical persons taking part in ceremonies, like funeral of Marshal Józef Piłsudski (1867-1935), the Leader of forces regaining freedom in 1917 (after 123 years of partition), Chief of State (1918–22), an important figure on the European political scene.

There are also less formal pictures of citizens at their work places, homes, or just everyday life: people performing their works, or playing billiard, taking part in theatrical performances. We can see the fashion from the last century or folk costumes. Many of the old photos present landscape or architecture, and sometimes these pictures are the only evidence of its existence. The majority of photographs are positive prints, the oldest with printed atelier address and vignette. Date of quite many of the photographs is unknown.

ICIMSS photographs are collected from  private owners so their quality vary, but we have to bear in mind the situation of the country (under partition till 1917), and experiencing the WWII with completely demolished cities (Warsaw), people expulsion and deportation, when all their properties with majority of their personal belongings have been lost. In this situation even a single picture from that time can be very important for the memory of the country, even not technically perfect. As an example can serve a group photo from 1915 of Polish soldiers imprisoned in Omsk (Siberia).