University of Pittsburgh
July 6, 2000

PITT LIBRARY SYSTEM RECEIVES FUNDS TO PRESERVE RARE POLISH COLLECTION

Contact: 

Sharon Blake

412-624-4364

Cell: 412-277-6926

PITTSBURGH, June 30 -- The University of Pittsburgh Library System has received a donation of $10,000 from the Polish National Alliance (PNA), to help catalog, preserve, and make accessible a collection of rare Polish books, magazines, and sound recordings—one of the top collections of its kind in the country.

This collection, rich in Polish culture and history, had previously been housed at Alliance College in Cambridge Springs, PA, but was entrusted to the University Library System (ULS) after that college closed in the late 1980s. In the nine years the collection has been housed at Hillman Library, the PNA has donated $65,000 to support it.

Pitt has cataloged 14,500 titles from the Alliance College Polish Collection, including 295 music scores, 111 sound recordings, and many rare books, magazines and journals, some unique to North America. They are available on-line at http://pittcat.pitt.edu,

"We'll use the money to help preserve the materials, some of which are falling apart," said ULS Slavic bibliographer Karen Rondestvedt. "Some of the most important documents are in the worst condition, because they were published on cheap paper to make them affordable. We're reformatting them and using state-of-the-art digital technology to photocopy them in full color onto acid free paper. Some we are binding in red cloth, others are being preserved onto microfilm," she said.

The collection reflects what Polish people were reading in the late 19th and early 20th centuries—ranging from treasured volumes of poetry to books on what words one had to learn to become an American citizen. Pitt adds about 1,000 volumes of Polish material to the collection every year.

"It represents a research treasure chest of Polish culture and heritage in Poland and America," remarked ULS Director Rush Miller, adding that Pitt is working to raise additional money to complete the cataloging and preservation of the materials. "As these books are cataloged, they become more accessible to scholars, and their use by scholars is growing correspondingly," said Miller.

The collection is used by students and faculty, as well as Polish Americans from throughout the country, interested in seeking information about Poland and their ancestors. Duplicates of some materials have been sent to the National Library in Warsaw, the Cornell University Library and libraries in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

The PNA donation was presented by three Alliance officials: National Director Joseph Pinksaw, District 8 Commissioner Joseph Kaminski, and Lodge 1483 President Ted Michalik. They also donated another book to the collection: "Constitutions, Elections and Legislatures of Poland, 1493-1933" by Jack Jedrich, a guide to the little-known parliamentary history of Poland.