Committee of Ministers Chairmanship – Poland : November 2004 – May 2005 

(To be checked against delivered speech)
Inauguration of the exhibition “Reconstruction of the Memory of Poland”

Speech by Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland

It is my great honour and pleasure to invite you to this special exhibition which is the best possible European product, a visible fruit of Eurepean cooperation and proof of results which can be achieved thanks to such wide collaboration. The project named ‘‘Reconstitution of the Memory of Poland”, adopted by the Council of Europe on 24 June 1998, was of pioneer and pilot nature in every respect. It emerged in the atmosphere of development and strengthening of new democracies in Europe and the abolition of the continent’s division into two hostile political blocks. In this favourable environment the flow of information was born, being as well the starting point of deep international archival cooperation.

Growing public interest in archival holdings, rising need to learn or, better, to relearn history drew our attention to the lack of suitable materials in our repositories. Because of the loss of independence at the end of the 18th c., the division of the territory among neighbouring States, numerous wars, national uprisings, the archives were scattered around, destroyed and sometimes plundered. Also consecutive waves of emigration, accompaning each armed conflict were damaging to a proper structure of archival holdings, as in the majority of cases the papers were taken abroad. Thus looking for the help we have adapted the general idea of common cultural heritage to be the ground for the archival project called by us at the annual international colloqia in 1997 „Common Archival Heritage”.

The main emphasis of this project was put on the accessibility to /of/ the historical sources of any given country preserved outside its borders. We were then convienced and still we sustain this conviction that the dispertion of archival holdings is one of the crucial problems we have to face. The questionnaire carried out by ICA upon the UNESCO order may serve as proof. In the light of this survey it turned out that Polish archival holdings belong to the group of most divided, dispersed and damaged. In an agreement with ICA Secretary General and the president of Bundesarchiv the idea of making the example of Poland a testing ground for wide-reaching programme was taken up. In June 1998, accompanying the Minister of Foreign Affairs – Bronisław Geremek, I had a great honour to present the idea of the Reconstitution of the Memory of Poland programme at the meeting of permanent representatives of the European States here in Strasbourg.

Now when the results are visible, the database is accessible and searchable in the Internet, the software and its technology are available free of charges to all interested archival organisations, I would like to express our gratitude to all people thanks to whom the „Reconstitution of the Memory of Poland” programme was established:

- to Council of Europe Secretary General, Daniel Tarchys, who favourably approched the appeal of Polish historians requesting for the acceptance of the programme,

- to Viera Boltho, Wolfdietrich Elbert, Giuseppe Vitiello, Sylvie Fossey from Cultural and Action Department,

- to our colleagues, the directors of archives, of Germany /Friedrich Kahlenberg, Hartmut Weber, Klaus Oldenhage/, Austria /Lorenz Mikoletzky/, Russia /Vladimir Kozlow/, Ukraine /Hienadij Boriak/, France /Martine de Boisdeffre/, Italy /Salvatore Italia/,

- to our colleagues from ICA, especially to Charles Kecscemeti,

- to the inventors of the database from Amsterdam Archival School, esp. to Peter Horsman – you can see the structure of the data base on the screens,

- to two subsequent permanent representatives of Poland – Ambassadors Marcin Rybicki and Krzysztof Kocel for continuous support,

- to a host of archivists in all countries concerned, including my overworked staff.

With those thanks I feel that I was able to prove that the Programme is of international origin and character, and was internationally built up. The Programme takes on the international dimension also because the software can be used by anyone adressing such request and is useful beyond the boundries to those nations whose history was linked with that of Poland.

Also this exhibition has an international origin. The images related to the database were chosen by our partners. You can trace how the information on certain document is catalogued in the data base. The nature of each document seems to be very different. There are royal documents, city maps and fotos, drawings, statistics, state agencies information, war documents, lists of emigrants, letters, parliamentary papers, but also personal files of the father of pope John Paul II.

There are written documents besides pictures. Whatever the character of each document, one general remark is authorised: history can not be traced basing only on the repositoris of one country. The international exchange is very much needed and expected. Hopefuly new technologies are making such goals likely to be achieved.