Poland launches its National Register of the Memory of the World Programme

Eleven items representing documentary heritage of special significance for Poland’s culture, history and identity have been inscribed by the Polish Memory of the World Programme Committee on the Polish Register’s first edition. They include one of the oldest modern constitutions worldwide, i.e. the Government Act of 3 May 1791, as well as, among others, the Chronicles of Gallus Anonymus (in its oldest copy in the Zamojski Codex) being the oldest Polish chronicle documenting the earliest period of Poland’s history; the Description of the Bochnia and Wieliczka salt mines, from 1518, the oldest complete document of this type in Europe preserved in its integrity, describing one of Europe’s largest industrial enterprises of its time; and the autograph of Polish national epic and masterpiece of the XIX century literature “Pan Tadeusz” by Adam Mickiewicz.

At the official ceremony inaugurating the Register, which took place on 17 October 2014, certificates of inscription were obtained by representatives of the institutions preserving the included items. In his welcoming address on behalf of the President of Poland to the participants, Mr Michał Klimczak, Undersecretary of State, underscored the importance attached by Poland to the preservation of documentary heritage and accentuated its linkage with the enormous loss that affected the country following the partitions of Poland at the end of the XVIII century and during the Second World War.

Ms Małgorzata Omilanowska, Minister of Culture and National Heritage, as well as Ms Henryka Mościcka-Dendys, Undersecretary of State at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, particularly emphasized Poland’s appreciation for the Memory of the World Programme and for UNESCO’s overall activities addressing preservation of, and access to, documentary heritage. Poland also significantly contributed to the process of elaboration by UNESCO of an international standard setting instrument in this domain, which will be presented for adoption by Member States at the next session of the General Conference, in November 2015. Together with Mr Sławomir Ratajski, Secretary-General of the Polish National Commission for UNESCO, they also drew attention to the importance of documentary heritage for providing solid knowledge foundations to the promotion of intercultural and international understanding and dialogue.

Mr Władysław Stępniak, General Director of State Archives, Member of IAC of the Memory of the World Programme and Chairman of the Programme’s Polish Committee presented on this occasion the origins of the idea for creating the National Register, its procedures and criteria for inscribing items, and also portrayed a broader contextualization of UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme, its goals, history and current priorities.

Several exhibitions were organized at the Presidential Palace and other historical places, in connection with the inscribed heritage items. The inauguration also benefitted from an important media interest and coverage.

The work leading to the launch of the Polish Memory of the World Register has taken several years and will be continued. It is intended that every two years it will result in inclusion of more items and collections preserved in the archives, libraries and museums throughout Poland. Thus, the Polish National Memory of the World Register will contribute to inspiring reflection and reviving collective memory in Poland and local communities throughout the country, as well as to raising further the awareness of the importance of preservation of documentary heritage and its transmission to future generations.

More information about the items inscribed on the Polish Memory of the World Register, including a film presenting them is available here.

UNESCO launched the Memory of the World Programme in 1992 to guard against collective amnesia calling upon the preservation of the valuable archive holdings and library collections all over the world ensuring their wide dissemination. The Programme is intended to protect documentary heritage, and helps networks of experts to exchange information and raise resources for preservation of, and access to, documentary materials.