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Difficult Issues in History and Archives

XVI International Conference
on Archives of the States
of Eastern and Central Europe

Difficult Issues in History and ArchivesWarsaw, 19-20 May 2016


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History of the conference

The series of international archive conferences, since 1997 entitled "Colloquia Jerzy Skowronek dedicata", dates back to the mid-nineties. Its origins are related to the debate on a new role of archives in European societies vis-a-vis the political changes of that time, especially the fall of the Communist bloc in Central and Eastern Europe within 1989-1991. To overcome ideological divisions in Europe, reintroduce freedom of speech in the countries of former Eastern bloc, and make information collected in archives widely available to the public, those institutions needed to take a new approach towards managing archives and their resources.

Therefore, as early as in 1993 the Council of Europe outlined its first programme on new rules for operation of archive services. As part of its implementation, on 21-22 November 1994 an international meeting of representatives of archives was held in Strasbourg, entitled: Archives in a democratic society. Minimum requirements for the creation, the administration and the use of archives as well as co-operation between archives in Europe. Its purpose was to set forth democratic standards to be followed when establishing and managing archives, and to redefine the rules of archival cooperation between the countries of Western and Eastern Europe. The experts participating in the conference developed proposals for practical actions under archival cooperation, as well as a list of fundamental elements that should form the basis for such cooperation. The following issues were counted among the main directions of archival policy in Europe: preservation of the archival heritage, democratisation of legal systems and procedures, the opening up and improvement of the accessibility of archives.

The Council of Europe recommendations were positively received by the heads of Polish archival service. Professor Jerzy Skowronek, the then General Director of State Archives, was taking many initiatives to enhance the presence of Polish archivists in the international archival circles, and he saw Polish archives as an integrating element in the cooperation with former communist countries. Owing to his efforts, in the years 1995-1996 two international conferences were held in Poland, dedicated to archives of former communist parties and the archive management problems in the era of legal and political transformation. Results of both meetings, accompanied with guidelines to be followed in the future, were formulated in the final resolution of the international conference of archivists that took place in 1996 in Puławy. The participants unanimously postulated the need of follow-up conferences for archivists of the region to discuss and assess their experience in archival reforms being carried out in various countries. There were proposals put forward that these meetings be included into the European initiatives of the International Council on Archives, whose representatives were present at the meetings in Poland.

Despite the tragic death of Professor Skowronek in July 1996, his initiative was not given up. It was continued in the next years by Professor Daria Nałęcz who in 1997 had assumed the function of General Director of State Archives.

A month later, in October 1997, archivists from Central and Eastern European countries again met in Poland to discuss the issue of common archival heritage in the countries of the region.

To commemorate Professor Skowronek as the initiator, during the third conference the whole series of conferences was named Colloquia Jerzy Skowronek dedicata. The international meetings – 11 in total – were held regularly every year to 2005. The discussion during those meetings focused on current issues of archival activity such as handling non-state archives and archival records, questions of availability of archival material to the public, application of computers in archives, role of these institutions in information societies and among other memory institutions.

Materials from each of these conferences were published as separate volumes in English and Russian - respective languages of conference.

In 2006, due to the 8th European Archival Conference organized in Warsaw, the representatives of European archives met only within this event. In 2007, when another General Director was appointed, the Head Office of State Archives ceased organizing the meetings of Central European countries for a few years.

In 2011, Acting General Director of State Archives Andrzej Biernat Ph. D., and later newly appointed head of Polish archives Professor Władysław Stępniak, revived the years-lasting tradition of meetings of Central and Eastern European archivists and invited representatives from Western European countries. This year, the twelfth conference Colloquia Jerzy Skowronek dedicata is going to be organized by the Head Office of State Archives in collaboration with the Institute of National Remembrance. During the meeting the participants will discuss the issues related to documents created by institutions of apparatus of repression in the countries of former Eastern bloc.

We hope that the reinstated meetings help to exchange experience between archivists of various countries, and contribute to the debate and research for common solutions for the current problems and challenges the archival services face throughout Europe.


Calendar of conferences "Colloquia Jerzy Skowronek dedicata"

1st conference
28 September - 1 October 1995, Stara Wieś k. Węgrowa
Archives of Former Communist Parties in Central and Eastern Europe

2nd conference
28 - 30 June 1996, Puławy
Archives of Central and Eastern Europe at the Time of Legal and Political Transformations

3rd conference
22-24 October 1997, Goławice
The Common Archival Heritage of States and Nations of Central and Eastern Europe

4th conference
8-10 October 1998, Warsaw
The private archives and archival materials in the Central and East European Countries

5th conference
15-16 October 1999, Mądralin
Accessibility of Archival Materials in Compliance with the Law and General Practices of the States of Central and East European Countries

6th conference
13-14 October 2000, Warsaw
Archives of Former International Organizations of the States of Central and Eastern Europe

7th conference
28-29 September 2000, Warsaw
Archives in the New Age. The Strategic Problems of the Automatization of Archives

8th conference
31 May - 1 June 2002, Popowo
Archives in the Information Society

9th conference
22-24 May 2003, Elbląg
Archives in the Society

10th conference
28-29 May 2004, Warsaw
Archives among the Memory Institutions

11th conference
20-21 May 2005, Toruń
Archives and Non–Traditional Carriers of Information

12th conference
4-5 October 2012, Warsaw
The documentation of communist security authorities
Programme pdf, Announcement pdf

13th conference
22-23 May 2013, Warsaw
Electronic Records and Access to Archive Resources via Internet
Programme pdf

14th conference
22-23 May 2014, Warsaw
Collecting of archive resources in the digital world of the 21st Century
Programme pdf, Announcement pdf, Materials

15th conference
21-22 May 2015, Warsaw
Archives in the social environment of the 21st Century
Programme pdf