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The History of the State Archives in Toruń

The History of the State Archives in Toruń

The Archives in Toruń belongs to one of the oldest institutions of this kind in Poland. It has its origins back in the Middle Ages when it was connected with the foundation of the city of Toruń in 1233. At that time it was housed in the town hall and with time it developed gradually as more and more documents and registers important for the city were gathered there. The first note of an organized city archives dates back to 1570 and 1587. Some of the collected documents and registers were stored in the town hall tower, while the rest was kept in the remaining rooms of the town hall. Apart from the city archives proper, the town hall also housed the Archives of the PrussianTerritories as well as the files of the district court of Chełmno. With the passing of time in rather unclear circumstances the records of the nearby towns and cities including, among others, Brodnica, Chełmno, Chełmża, Golub, Kowalewo, Wąbrzeźno were also deposited with the town hall. The Archives suffered a first serious loss in 1703 when some of the documents were burnt during a siege laid by the Swedish armies and a bombardment of the town hall. Among the burnt documents there could be found, among others, acta consularia, some account books of the city offices, missiva as well as deposits including some part of the Archives of the PrussianTerritories and all the files of the district court of Chełmno.

As a result of the annexation of some of Polish territories by Prussia in 1793 and establishment of a new administration system, the Archives of Toruń lost some of its significance and was important merely from historical point of view. In 1812 during the evacuation of the town hall, which at Napoleon’s order had been turned into a field hospital for French soldiers, the records of the Archives were moved in disarray to one of the tenement houses in Szczytna Street. After a few years the records were again moved back to the town hall. Throughout the following several years numerous attempts were made to put the papers in order. The feat was accomplished only towards the end of the 19th century. The main work was done by Ernest Kestner and Józef Tietzen under the supervision of the legal adviser Jerzy Bender. They divided all the records of the Archives, including deposits, into four catalogues: I-Documents and letters, II-Registers and files, III-Guild letters, IV-Guild files. In 1899 the municipal council of Toruń appointed a city archivist and for many years the post was held by Artur Semrau, a professor of the academic secondary school of Toruń. After Poland regained the independence, from 1927 the Archives were headed by Helena Piskorska, a teacher from the academic secondary school of Toruń. Until the outbreak of WW II, the Archives functioned as an independent public institution with a research office open to the public. It also aspired to becoming the main archive centre in the north of Poland. The documents on record included, apart from the ones listed above, records of cities dating up to 1920, records of Polish organisations and associations as well as city and guild seals. During the interwar period the research conducted in the Archive revived significantly. An inventory of records was also made and the cartographic collection of Toruń was arranged anew as a result.

After the outbreak of WW II H. Strehlau from Norymberg took over as the head of the Archives with its newly established Office of Genealogy (Sippenamt). At that time Germans moved the records on numerous occasions and the most valuable documents were eventually transferred to the salt mine in Grasleben. Some birth registers from Toruń and the county of Toruń gathered at the abovementioned Office of Genealogy were also taken away. Most of the documents and files which had been removed were brought back after 1947.

In 1951 the institution of the Archives was nationalised and included in the national archive network. At first it functioned as the Local Branch of the Province State Archives in Bydgoszcz. only after the administration reform in 1976 did the Archives gain the status of an independent institution and had the name of the Province State Archives in Toruń. The process of nationalisation fundamentally changed the scope and form of activity of the Archives. From now on the institution was responsible for accumulating, storing, processing, and making the records of historic importance available. It also supervised the growing store of archive materials (works archives). The Archives also became an important source base for the NicolausCopernicusUniversity established in Toruń. Its store gained new type of files: files of general and special administration, business institutions and companies, judiciary institutions, schools, and other state institutions. In its activity the Archives covered the area including the city and county of Toruń and the counties of Chełmno, Wąbrzeźno, and Golub Dobrzyń (from 1956), and also until 1954 the city and county of Inowrocław and the county of Mogilno. The Archives had two branch offices: in Wąbrzeźno and Grudziądz, which were both closed down respectively in 1990 and 1999.

Since 1960 the Archives has been housed in 4 Rapackiego Square. In 1996 the organisational structure of the institution was changed after a new building of the former “Flisak” cinema was assigned to play the role of one of its offices. Currently the following departments can be found in 4 Rapackiego Square: the Authorities, Department I – records from the period up to the end of 18th century, archive information and records room, conservator’s office, administration-economic department, and financial-accounting department. The building in 6 Idzikowskiego Street houses the following departments: Department II - archive materials from 19th – 21st centuries, and Department III in charge of works archives. The institution of Archives in Toruń was headed one by one by the following people: Helena Piskorska, from 1958 - Franciszek Paprocki, between 1961-1965 Irena Janosz-Biskupowa, between 1966-1984 Karola Ciesielska, between 1984-1989 Maksymilian Grzegorz, and between 1989-2004 Jarosław Porazinski. Since 2004 Beata Herdzin has been the head of the Archives.

Branch in Włocławek

The first state institution created with a view to collecting documentation from the closed offices in the area of the city of Włocławek was the CountyBranch of the Province State Archives in Bydgoszcz established on 1 August 1950. In 1951 the Branch was transformed into the County State Archives in Włocławek covering the counties of Aleksandrów, Lipno, Włocławek, and the city of Włocławek and from 1956 the newly established county of Radziejów. After the reform of the administrative division of the country in 1975, the County State Archives in Włocławek was transformed into a Branch of the Province State Archives in Bydgoszcz on 1 January 1976. The area of activity of the Branch in Włocławek covered the newly created province of Włocławek. In 1982 the Branch in Włocławek was brought under the control of the Province State Archives in Toruń and subsequently from 1984 the State Archives in Toruń. The Branch in Włocławek was headed one by one by the following people: between 1976-2007 Marianna Gruszczyńska. Since 2007 the Branch has been headed by Tomasz Dziki, Dr.

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