Under the auspices of the Société Historique et Littéraire Polonaise (Polish Historical and Literary Society) representatives from libraries, archives, and museums from all corners of the Polish diaspora met August 30-September 1 at the Polish Library in Paris to develop more cooperation—with each other and with the government of Poland, which is taking a growing interest in supporting institutions with holdings that document the emigration of Poles to far flung areas of the world. Representing the Polish Museum of America and the PMA Library were PMA President Richard Owsiany, Managing Director Małgorzata Kot, and Head Archivist Halina Misterka.
Misterka impressed the delegates with a PowerPoint presentation that highlighted a portion of the rare documents, letters, and photographs that the PMA owns, a great many of which exist nowhere else in the world. She concentrated on documents related to Ignacy Paderewski, Woodrow Wilson, and other key figures involved with Polish, French, and American relations during World War I. Other speakers included representatives from the Józef Piłsudski Institute in New York, the Hungarian Museum and Archives of the Polish Diaspora in Budapest, the Kosciuszko Museum in Switzerland, the Polish Library in Buenos Aires, and the Polish Museum and Archives in Australia.
PMA President Owsiany noted that this is the group has been meeting for many years, but has been gaining speed in recent in recognition and support for the Polish Museum and its library and archives. Of course, he added, the financial pot is never large enough and must be shared by many organizations but we are taking significant steps in a unified direction.
A highlight of the meeting was a trip to Montrésor and a tour of Château de Montrésor, built in 1393. In 1849, the mother of Polish exiled magnate Count Xavier Branicki bought the dilapidated estate as a project for her son, who was a friend of emperor Napoleon III. Branicki had the castle completely restored over 20 years and made his home into an archive and repository of Polonica and Polish historical artifacts. The castle is now owned by relatives of the Branicki family who are also descendants of Mikolaj Rej.
“The visit to the castle was astonishing,” said Małgorzata Kot. “The family has maintained its Polish heritage and our hosts spoke fluent Polish. We all learned so much about Polonia in France and about this outpost of Polish culture and history.”
The conference was conducted in Polish. Polish American Librarians Association Immediate Past President Leonard Kniffel, a member of the board of directors of the Polish Museum, was present for Misterka’s session.