The creation of a digital repository: Documents and photographs of Stanislaw Poniatowski (1884-1945)

  • Grant registration number 11H 13 0103 82 NPRH
  • Duration: 2010-2016 (24 months)

Scientific purpose

The aim of the project is to create a digital repository containing personal documents, diaries, sketches and photographs from Stanislaw Poniatowski’s expedition to Siberia, and also his lectures and notes from the collections of PTL in Wroclaw. It contains 7,200 objects collected in years 1884-1945. In a subset of the Siberian includes both photographs and films and glass plates on which there are images of residents, important representatives of their communities - shamans and images from everyday life. This is unique material, also because of the technology in which it was made. The fragility of glass objects is an additional argument in favor of their digital security, as soon as possible. The remaining part consists of two diaries from the expedition, notes, drawings made by the inhabitants of Siberia, as well as sketches made by Poniatowski. The photographs document the daily life, places, buildings and burial mounds important for Siberians. There are many photographs of the Golds and Orochon, taken in typical style of that period (eg. “the type” of Siberian - the young man, the shaman). These photos Poniatowski used for the study of physical anthropology of natives.
Other files include an extensive collection of materials and personal documents.

The collection includes mainly lectures on ethnology, anthropology, ethnography and archeology. There are also notes from Poniatowski research devoted to selected topics, enriched with cutouts from newspapers, paper, two-dimensional mock-ups (eg. clothes), templates folk patterns, samples of decorative motifs, made from organic materials such as bark or calfskin.

Stages of the project

  1. The creation of a repository: Documents and photographs of Stanislaw Poniatowski (1884-1945) and make it available on the network (digital platform of Wroclaw University Library);
  2. The construction of the database and website, which will increase the value sets and allow their popularization;
  3. The publication of the catalog, with photos and documents representative for the collection together with its characteristics;
  4. The publication with description of collections and project description;
  5. An exhibition and conference devoted to the expedition of Stanislaw Poniatowski.

Scientific importance of the project

The project is important for heritage and national culture, and also for the history of ethnology. It determines primarily the figure of Stanislaw Poniatowski, a prominent ethnologist and anthropologist. In the years 1917-1934 he taught ethnology and ethnography in the Free Polish University and then he was a head of the Department of Ethnology Institute of Anthropological and Ethnological Society of Sciences in Warsaw (1920-1939). He was also a member of Polish Oriental Society, the Anthropological Commission (1935), ethnographic, geographic commissions of Prehistoric Academy of Sciences and (1917) of the Imperial Geographical Society in St. Petersburg. He represented Polish science during scientific congresses, including Prague and Amsterdam.

Particularly important here are the materials collected during expeditions to Siberia, to the country of Golds and Orochon: newspapers, sketches and a rich collection of film and glass tiles. It was difficult to transport them from Siberia and preserve for a century, despite the changes in the seat of Archives of PFS and the two world wars. The project is also important due to the fact that the studies conducted by Stanislaw Poniatowski etched into the mainstream of international, interdisciplinary expeditions beginning the twentieth century. In May 2014 marks the centenary of the expedition Poniatowski over the Yenisei, so this is an additional argument that collected material should be presented and disseminated to a wider audience.
The expedition of Stanislaw Poniatowski to the country of Golds and Orochon was significant. The expedition planned to prove the thesis of Asian Indian origin, which according to this theory through the Aleutian Islands and Alaska infiltrated the American continent and spread there. Expedition set out under the auspices of Oxford University, the Pennsylvania Museum, Smithsonian Institution (USA) and the Russian Academy of Sciences. During the study Poniatowski visited Tunguska tribes, primarily Gilyaks, Orochons, and Golds. He returned to Warsaw May 10, 1914.

In addition to the collection of anthropometric measurements and photographic documentation Poniatowski tried to gather information on the spiritual culture of the natives. These observations also led to information about the daily struggles of the inhabitants of Siberia with environmental difficulties, as well as descriptions of their games, festivals and other manifestations of social life. Leading the search for common points of cultural and anthropological between the Asian and Indian populations, Poniatowski stumbled inter alia, on their traces in buildings and structures huts which in his opinion confirmed the cultural bonds between those two groups of people. Completion of research by expedition Stanislaw Poniatowski was prevented by the outbreak of First World War.

During the study, he managed to accumulate a lot of objects and works of art Siberian, for example embroidery, cut-outs and goods made of birch bark, patterns ornaments and other ethnographic exhibits. Because the material collected by Poniatowski was published after many years, and the outbreak of the First World War prevented the completion of the data, the importance of Pole expedition on an international scale has not been properly appreciated. The issue of Asian Indian origin settled in the course of other research. The presented project creates favorable conditions to the achievements of "Siberian" Stanislaw Poniatowski was finally recognized and presented.

By digitizing and creating a web resource of documents and photographs of Stanislaw Poniatowski and make them available on the network we will increase the availability of collection, which comprises images from unique, non-existent world today.

Notes and sketches represent unique records of most ordinary of objects, costumes, tools, ornaments, weapons, shamanic accessories. The digital collection will be important source for ethnologists, anthropologists, historians, sociologists, as well as to museum curators and photographers. The broad spectrum of presented materials will make it easier to discover the value of this collection. Creators of the project also expect that due to the increasingly widespread access to the repository of Wroclaw University Library will also benefit foreign researchers, so descriptions of objects will be also prepared in English.

The project will have an interdisciplinary character. In our team we have an ethnologists, art historian, librarian, computer and graphic specialists. This solution allows lead the process of creating a repository on several levels. It is thus possible to describe more fully the set, placing its individual components in the relevant cultural contexts.

Expected results

  • publishing digital repository of documents and photographs of Stanislaw Poniatowski (1884-1945) in the framework of Digital Library (digital platform of Wroclaw University Library), containing 7200 scans objects;
  • increasing access to collections through the use of descriptions of objects in Polish and English;
  • securing resources through digital archiving;
  • preparing of publications: a directory and collective work summarizing the work done during the project, with the exact characteristics of the results;
  • preparing, together with the Ethnographic Museum in Wroclaw exhibition and conference dedicated to the expedition Stanislaw Poniatowski.