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The Legacy of Erazm Majewski (1858-1922) in the Documentations Department ofthe State Archaeological Museum in Warsaw. On His 150th Birthday Anniversary
 
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Państwowe Muzeum Archeologiczne, ul. Długa 52, 00-241 Warszawa
Publication date: 2008-12-31
 
Wiadomości Archeologiczne 2008;LX(60):9–95
 
KEYWORDS
ABSTRACT
After 1945 the legacy of E. Majewski, proof of his lively scientific, research and publicising activity, passed into keeping of the State Archaeological Museum in Warsaw. Archival material – letters, notebooks, manuscripts and typescripts, drawings, photographic glass plates and prints, materials associated with his archaeological collection (‘Erazm Majewski Museum of Archaeology’ – Polish abbreviation ‘MEM’) and its library, press cuttings, personal documents and smaller items (library seal, ornamental book plate, poster, etc) are in keeping of the Documentations Department of the State Archaeological Museum. Private records of E. Majewski (letters, notebooks and manuscripts) remained in care of his wife (Lucyna Majewska) whereas a different part of his legacy was attached by E. Majewski to the museum collections, library and furniture, and presented officially on 3 June 1921 to Warsaw Scientific Society (Polish abbreviation TNW); subsequently it was organised as E. Majewski Museum of Prehistory (Polish abbreviation MPEM), housed in Palace Staszic at Nowy Świat 72 in Warsaw. After a period of confusion and neglect this legacy came under care of W. Antoniewicz, from 1 September 1924 head of the new museum, and made available to the public on 25 November 1932. After Palace Staszic suffered from nazi air bombs during the siege of Warsaw in September 1939 the staff of the Museum moved the collections, archival records, and the library into safekeeping in the building of the National Museum where they joined the collections of the State Archaeological Museum. The E. Majewski Prehistory Museum ceased to exist as an independent institution. This fact was sanctioned officially on 21 December 1948. Seized by the nazis after 1944 and removed to the castle at Höchstädt in Bavaria, ‘E. Majewski materials’ were returned in 1946 and 1947 to the State Archaeological Museum. In the Acquisitions Book of the State Archaeological Museum the papers of Erazm Majewski were entered under the date of 27 May 1974 as ‘no. 3757’ and organised as follows: A = 18 files ‘Listy do Erazma Majewskiego’ (ie Letters to E. Majewski). B = 94 notebooks-journals kept by E. Majewski in the period 1874–1922. C–K = 10 files of manuscripts and typescripts of studies, documents and letters concerning MEM, various other materials, including personal records. L = Memorial Book. M = volume of newspaper and magazine articles on MEM. N = volume of book press cuttings. No. 3757/A. Letters to E. Majewski After December 1907 E. Majewski had his letters placed in eighteen files (format 26.5×16 cm) tied with string, with stiff covers, bound in cloth, with leather backs, embossed with the number of the file and labelled ‘Listy do Erazma Majewskiego’. The letters had been sorted in alphabetical order by the name of the sender. In each sleeve were provided details on the author, his academic degree, home address, profession or activity pursued, and date of the letter. Contents of this correspondence are quite varied. A large set are letters and post cards concerned with editing and publication: research papers submitted for publication, proofreading, illustrations, commissions, reviews, translations, censorship, distribution, print. A separate group are letters of recommendation and congratulation, letters of thanks, notices, invoices, receipts, advice, consultation, explanation, offers of cooperation, comments, proposals, calculations, negotiations. Of special interest are letters which contain ethnographic and linguistic source material, descriptions of archaeological sites and finds, and exchange of views and information on scientific findings, sale or transfer of collections. Some letters contain interesting references to current political and cultural events. A large collection are official letters and papers, invitations and greeting cards received on occasion of diverse anniversaries and other events, finally, an assortment of visiting cards. It is notable that no letters from family members are included here although in according to entries in Majewski’s journals he maintained a lively correspondence with his family. It appears that this portion of correspondence had been left out of the files on purpose. In addition, some sets of letters from individual respondents are incomplete, as shown by the contents of the surviving letters. Unfortunately, it is not clear whether they were lost or were withheld from the files on purpose. In the surviving correspondence addressed to E. Majewski there is ample information which is of significant cognitive value and excellent as source material. It may be helpful in establishing details on known facts and identifying new ones, verifying dates of events and interpreting them. The material is so rich and varied that it is worth of a separate discussion. It could not be established when and by what route this group of records was added to the holdings of the State Archaeological Museum. In March 1949 it was already part of the collections. The list of file contents made around 1973 includes 3411 items. Letters cover the period 1878–1922. Among E. Majewski’s correspondents were archaeologists, anthropologists, coin specialists, collectors, linguists, historians of Polish literature, ethnographers, historians, philosophers, representatives of different scientific disciplines, men of letters, journalists associated with most periodicals of the time, graphic artists, printers, publishers, owners of major publishing houses and warehouses, members of societies, associations and clubs of the capital, lawyers from best known law offices in Warsaw, members of staff of central government institutions, museums, libraries and other institutions culture and science in and outside Poland, men of the church, doctors. A large group were correspondents associated with periodicals “Wisła” and “Światowit”. Also impressive is the number of institutions in and outside Poland with which E. Majewski cooperated and exchanged letters. No. 3757/B. Notebooks of E. Majewski These are small books of various type and size: the largest is 17.5×9 cm, the smallest – 9.5×6 cm. They have hard covers, bound in cloth or leather. Some have sleeves, in which E. Majewski kept visiting cards, notes made on small sheets of paper, bills and smaller press cuttings. Several notebooks have a special sheath for a miniature pencil (one such pencil has survived in the sheath of notebook no. 60). After the death of E. Majewski (14 November 1922) ninety-nine notebooks were deposited in a small specially prepared wooden box. It is unclear what happened to them over the ensuing twenty-two years. They were discovered November 1944 in the basement of Palace Ostrogski in Tamka St. by a team salvaging the culture heritage of the city after the fall of the Warsaw Uprising. Today ninety-four notebooks are held by the Documentations Department of State Archaeological Museum. Five are missing, perhaps they remained undiscovered in the basement of Palace Ostrogski. The first entry was made 20 June 1873 when E. Majewski was fifteen, the last entry three days before he died. They were written either in pen or pencil. It is easy to identify entries made at home, on a desk: the handwriting is more careful. With time, when subject matter of the entries increased vastly, their form evolved: Majewski recorded details on his health in red ink, more intimate confessions – in miniscule letters, the most confidential of all – in writing which may be deciphered only with the help of a small mirror. When much information accumulated during the day, E. Majewski recorded it in the form of ellipses, separated by double vertical lines. Pages presumably containing controversial information were at some point removed with scissors. When and by whom this was done we may never know. The notebooks also contain snippets of information from the press, postage stamps and small advertisements, wartime food rationing coupons, illustrations from scientific publications. Before this daily recording of thoughts and different events grew into a habit and a necessity entries were mostly brief and packed with information. With time, they were expanded to include references on family life and household matters, company work, travels, books, scientific contacts, plans and projects, and occasionally, long lists of names, addresses, things to be done, information to be used, problems to ponder, reflections, lists of expenses and letters. In his notebooks E. Majewski made notes on scientific disciplines then of interest to him, recording also his achievements and setbacks, defeats and honours The notebooks became also a chronicle of political, cultural, scientific and social life. Starting from 1919 they became a chronicle of Majewski’s struggle against serious illness, disability, breakdown, suffering and lack of energy to work and carry out his plans. Thanks to the notebooks we obtain a fuller view of E. Majewski. We learn what his weight was during different periods of his life, his height, of a leonberger dog he bought and of pet tortoises, that he smoked cigarettes against his doctor’s orders, played the violin, rode a horse and a bicycle, attended a dancing class, was an amateur photographer, played chess and billiards, shaved off his beard after his first heart attack and that next to collecting archaeological artefacts he collected autographs of famous Poles. We also find ample detail on his personal life and on his occupations during different times of day. Using the content of these notebooks it is possible to reconstruct the personality of E. Majewski, his family relationships, and human relations at large and his attitude to life. No. 3757/L. Memorial Book of E. Majewski Museum The volume was made to E. Majewski’s orders. Its pages are in hand-made paper in 31×50 cm format. The bindings did not survive, presumably, they were destroyed by moisture. Analysis made in March 2006 by specialists from the Central Laboratory of Archival Records Conservation in Warsaw identified the remains of mildew. The presence of fungi – no longer active – was confirmed by subsequent microbiological analysis. The Book had been placed on show in the building of Zachęta Society for the Propagation of Fine Arts on 27 September 1908, for signing by guests attending the inauguration of E. Majewski Museum. It contains an outline of history of the Museum, autographs of persons present at the opening, two articles from the press copied in L. Majewska’s hand, and entries made by visitors to the museum in subsequent years. The volume was used again on 25 November 1932 – at the inauguration of the Museum (MPEM), presumably to underline continuity of the institution. In this section we find an overview of the history of the Museum since 1908, autographs of guests, first and foremost, of I. Mościcki, President of Poland, and entries made by other visitors. Newspaper cuttings E. Majewski was well aware of the important role of the press. Starting from 1876 he published in newspapers miscellaneous articles addressed to the general public (review, critiques etc.) as well as publishing popularised and more serious scientific papers on various subjects (entomology, geology, archaeology, ethnography, sociology) as well as reviews. He also submitted brief reports from his archaeological discoveries, Museum, events associated with scientific activity, as well as appeals to the public concerning the protection of archaeological monuments. Before publishing his story ‘Professor Przedpotopowicz’ in book form, like many known authors before him E. Majewski published it in 1896 in the form of instalments in “Wędrowiec”. The press was a forum in which he campaigned in favour of the Town Museum and to obtain permission to continue housing his collections in the building of the National Museum at Podwale 15. Press cuttings (articles, columns, notices, reviews) on facts from E. Majewski’s family life, research, writing, activities and views, his Museum and current concerns of museum science and management were collected by him and by press agencies in and outside Poland (Informacja Prasowa Polska, correspondents cooperating with the French Argus de la Presse and La Courrier de la Presse agency). After recording their bibliographic address, the cuttings were pasted onto cards in specially prepared books, two of which now survive in the collections of the Documentations Department. No. 3757/M. Volume of newspaper and magazine articles on MEM from the period 1897–1898. Format 40×29 cm. With hard covers and marbled paper lining. Contains six articles from “Kurier Warszawski” and one from “Wędrowiec” by different authors (according to a list) on the subject of the town museum and ‘Caused by insults of Mommsenists’. No. 3757/N. Volume with hard covers bound in cloth. Format 30× 45 cm. Produced by Wilh[elm] Kreusch Bookbinders. On 260 numbered pages, pasted ‘cuttings from the press’. At first an effort was made (by E. Majewski?) to keep a chronological order but this was soon abandoned. After E. Majewski’s death articles about him and his work continued to be added to the book, presumably by his wife. By ca 1932 the volume had passed to MPEM – this is indicated by the pasted invitation addressed to W. Antoniewicz to attend a meeting on 25 November 1932 commemorating the 25th anniversary of Warsaw Scientific Society (the same occasion at which MPEM was inaugurated). Presumably, the volume was presented to MPEM by L. Majewska in 1930 with the rest of her husband’s library. Also included in the volume are press materials on MPEM, copies (typescript) of letters from L. Gumplowicz, dated August 1908, and materials relating to E. Majewski’s paper Nauka o cywilizacji (‘Findings from science on civilisation’) E. Majewski’s writings Manuscripts and typescripts of research papers, fragments of notes and letters, miscellaneous other documents were sorted by the staff of the Research Archive and placed in 10 files. Each file was provided with a list of contents, each document given a number corresponding to its number on the list. The files were assigned different letters of the alphabet. No. 3757/C. Manuscripts of papers written by E. Majewski on subjects taken from the sciences; reviews of works by J. Rostafiński (biologist) written by E. Majewski during his stay in Zakopane (10 June – 18 July 1900). In Majewski’s hand, that of his wife, and by person/s unknown (possibly, H. Wardyński or S. Sabatkiewicz, who during different periods were assistants to E. Majewski in his museum and editing work). No. 3757/D. Manuscripts of papers written by E. Majewski on subjects taken from the sciences. In Majewski’s hand and unknown persons (translators and correspondents who made extracts from scientific papers for E. Majewski at his commission). No. 3757/E. Typescript and manuscripts of papers by E. Majewski Materiały do pochodzenia człowieka and Nauka o cywilizacji (Part I: Prolegomena i podstawy do filozofii dziejów i socjologii, Warsaw 1908, Part II: Teoria człowieka i cywilizacji, Warsaw 1911, Part III: Kapitał, Warsaw 1914, Part IV: Narodziny i rozwój ducha na ziemi, published after E. Majewski’s death by his friend M. Massonius). No. 3757/F. Manuscripts of research papers, polemic articles, reviews, extracts from literature, rough copies of E. Majewski’s letters, translations, correspondence and a ‘1919 Report of the Board of Shareholders Company of the Perfume and Soap Chemical Laboratory Plant in Warsaw’. No. 3757/G. Manuscripts of papers written by E. Majewski on archaeology, ‘Archaeological Notebook’ (1895–1897 and 1912–1913), ‘Archaeological Journal’, kept 1897–1900; copy of an unpublished detailed catalogue from an archaeological exhibition in Kraków (1857–1859) written when the exhibition was in progress. No. 3757/H1. Manuscripts of E. Majewski’s works and materials associated with MEM, the Town Museum in Warsaw and MPEM. No. 3757/H2. Architectural documentation from 1912 of the building planned for construction at Langnerowska St. in Warsaw. No. 3757/I. Notes, manuscripts of articles, reviews and letters written by E. Majewski, letters exchanged with the Society for Protection of Ancient Monuments, with the Board of Warsaw Scientific Society, and concerned with the founding of the Ethnographic Museum in Warsaw. No. 3757/J. Personal autographs and documents, autobiographic notes and lists of Majewski’s works written commissioned by various publishers, editors, societies and authors. No. 3757/K. Manuscripts and typescripts of written communications and letters concerning MEM, MPEM, and L. Sawicki, written in 1903–1923. The photographic record E. Majewski collected photographic plates and prints, treating them as source material intended for publication. Some of these photographs were made by professional photographers, others by amateurs, many were made by E. Majewski himself or his brother Mieczysław, both of them active amateur photographers who considered photography a useful t,ool for scientific purposes. Processing of photosensitive materials was quite complicated at the time so E. Majewski frequently submitted his plates to professional shops in Warsaw to develop his prints, as well as developing many prints himself. From old bills and kept records it may be seen that he incurred substantial expenses ‘for photographs of finds’ and ‘for photographic accessories’. The plates and prints from E. Majewski’s legacy record the following images:. • Interior of E. Majewski’s house at Złota 61, his study, library and images of their owner. • MEM housed at Złota 61: cabinets, glass and display cases, housing archaeological finds which E. Majewski started collecting in earnest from 1892 onwards, collections of flint tools fastened to panels, interior of exhibition halls. • MEM housed in the Palace of Arts. From 1905 E. Majewski took pains to obtain a new location to house his collections because displaying his steadily growing resources at his own home became increasingly difficult. On 15 April 1908 the Board of the Zachęta Society for the Propagation of Fine Arts in Warsaw led by Chairman J. Herman agreed to place E. Majewski’s collections in a ‘room with three windows’ on the ground floor of the society’s building – the ‘Palace of Arts’). The Museum opened on 27.09.1908. Its display was photographed on many occasions for the press and publication by professional photographers. The State Archaeological Museum has in its collection photographs from the September 1908–1911 session and another made after 1914, when new display cases had been added to house the more than 20 000 of exhibits and the room was filled with museum furniture. • MEM in the building of the National Museum at Podwale 15. In 1916 E. Majewski decided to move his collections (then numbering more than 30 000 pieces) to the building of the National Museum at Podwale 15. He had the rooms of MEM in this building photographed in November 1919 and in March 1921. In neither case the name of the photographer is known at present. For nine photographs taken in 1921 Majewski paid ‘Mr. N.’ the amateur photographer 2 000 marks. • Conservation workshops. At first all, works associated with restoring pottery and conservation of other finds were carried out by E. Majewski in his study at Złota 61. Intensive excavation work carried out on Majewski’s instructions from 1911 onwards by M. Himner, S. Krakowski and L. Kozłowski greatly increased the number of finds in need of conservation and restoration (pottery in particular). Majewski organised a conservations workshop in 1911 in a building at Śniadeckich St. no. 8, belonging to Warsaw Scientific Society, in 1912, he assigned two rooms next to his study for a conservation workshops. • Archaeological finds. After conservation each archaeological object added to the MEM collection was recorded in its inventory books, its number inscribed in oil paint, in some specimens, together with the name of its findspot. The finds were photographed, most often in groups, ready for publication. At the State Archaeological Museum the photographic plates were at first catalogued collectively. Subsequently, attempts at identification were made and along the guidelines then in force of grouping scientific material according to the name of the locality selection was made of those plates which showed archaeological finds and sites. They were entered to the collection of plates of sites of the State Archaeological Museum in alphabetical order and without recording their provenance recorded in the Inventory of Photographic Plates of Archaeological Sites. The remainder were included in the section known as ‘Museum sciences and management’ entered in the relevant inventory with a note MEM – pre-war’, their source was given as ‘from early collections of State Archaeological Museum, legacy of E. Majewski’. Supplement – materials associated with E. Majewski Museum included in the legacy of S. Krukowski The Documentations Department of the State Archaeological Museum also holds the legacy of Stefan Krukowski (1890–1982), from 1908 until 1914 employed at MEM as assistant keeper and secretary of “Światowit”. E. Majewski financed archaeological fieldwork carried out by Krukowski in 1908 – 1913. When in 1914 Krukowski started working as assistant in the Archaeology Unit of the Department of Anthropology of Warsaw Scientific Society, his contacts with Majewski continued, he visited the library and collections, took part in activities of MEM in the Palace of Art and helped to move the artefacts from the building at Podwale 15 to Palace Staszic. Materials associated with S. Krukowski include a set of papers (no. 6205/36 in the Acquisitions Book) previously held by MEM. The set includes Majewski’s notebooks, manuscripts of guidebooks around MEM written by S. Krukowski (1913), J. Kostrzewski (1916) and L. Kozłowski (1919), lists of MEM collections and labels.
 
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