Collections of photographs of the Institute for Western Affairs from the Western and Northern Territories were created on the occasion of preparing and publishing the “Ziemie Staropolski” (“Old Polish Lands”) series in the 1940s. As part of the undertaking, a number of research expeditions travelled to the regions of Lower Silesia, Western Pomerania, Lubusz Land and Warmia & Mazury. During each of them, researchers took meticulous notes and conducted numerous interviews. Taking photographic documentation was a key part of the project. All in all, about 5500 images were produced and collected.

The first scientific expedition of the Institute for Western Affairs set off from Poznań to Lower Silesia under the leadership of Prof. Zdzisław Kaczmarczyk in September 1946. It continued its work intermittently until November of that year. Within the space of seven weeks, the team logged in 5700 km taking a total of 1,400 photographs.

Materials on West Pomerania were collected during four separate trips. The first of them, in April 1947, led by Prof. Janusz Dresiewicz, included historians, an economist and an author specializing in media reports. The second, held in May 1947, was made up of art historians while the third one, in April 1948, focused on geography-related issues. In addition, about a thousand photographs were produced by a whole separate photographic expedition.

Another scientific expedition of the Institute for Western Affairs was held in August and September 1947 in preparation of the “Old Polish Lands” series. An interdisciplinary research team headed by Prof. Zdzisław Kaczmarczyk drove 4000 km within six weeks producing 1200 photos.

The last two journeys were carried out in 1949. One of them, under the leadership of Prof. Maria Kiełczewska-Zaleska and doc. Stanisława Zajchowska, collected materials on the regions of Warmia and Mazury. Within a month, the team clocked in 4,000 km taking 1,000 photos. The other one, led by Profs. Michał Szczaniecki and Zdzisław Kaczmarczyk, explored Upper Silesia. It produced ca. 900 photographs and other materials.

The collection of photographs in the safekeeping of the Institute for Western Affairs are of extraordinary value. They form a unique record of historic works of art from the Western and Northern Territories and of the wartime devastation of these areas and occasional accounts of the daily lives of their inhabitants. Not only did the photographs provide illustrations for the “Old Polish Lands” series, but they have also since served researchers and institutions with interest in Western and Northern Territories.

Another part of the collection of photographs on the Western and Northern Territories at the Institute for Western Affairs is made up of about 1500 photographs taken in the late 1990s during research missions conducted by Prof. dr hab. Zbigniew Mazur.

His work on the German cultural heritage in the Western and Northern Territories and the politics of remembrance in those regions, complete with a record of the new dynamics of politics post 1989, is unprecedented in this field of research. The photographs portray the transformations of the Territories, and document the condition of Polish, German and Soviet cemeteries and numerous monuments. The objects photographed in some of the pictures repeats those of photos acquired by the Institute for Western Affairs in the 1940s and ‘50s. Photographs from both periods depict the same outdoor locations and items spanning a time gap of almost a half a century.

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