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Mountains and mountain culture in collecting

I. Introduction

Collecting is a significant source of information about mountains and mountain culture, but a modern and systematized approach to this question may lead to a better use of this mine of knowledge. I would like us to reflect on the word collecting for a while, as some problems connected with the low standing of collecting in the scientific circles arise from the narrow definition of this term understood as mere "gathering of odd objects". Thus, Mieczyslaw Szymczak's Dictionary of the Polish Language defines it as gathering objects of the same type according to specific criteria. The PWN Encyclopaedia also associates collecting with gathering objects and defines it as gathering, according to specific criteria, of works of arts, souvenirs, historical artefacts, etc. The American Heritage Dictionary states that collecting means creating collections. An attempt to beat this stereotype was made by Polish Collector's Guide (Kluczynski's Publishing), which shows its broader context.

I believe that in order to see the role of collecting correctly, one must treat it as an auxiliary science of history whose goal is to: (1) gather various items, i.e. traditional collecting, but also (2) to prepare and (3) present the results. In this sense, it meets the requirements that Jozef Szymanski specified for auxiliary sciences of history; as he put it: For generally, the goal of auxiliary sciences is to gather, work on, and systematize historical sources of a certain type, always at the source criticism level, however. Szymanski stresses the fact that auxiliary sciences of history are characterized by relativity, and thus, some disciplines may rise up to such a status. One discipline within the scope of my interest that the author names as an auxiliary science of history is numismatics. I do believe that collecting meets the conditions to be considered an auxiliary science of history.

Collecting keeps up with scientific disciplines in its use of information technology, including the Internet. Its growing presence on the World Wide Web is also connected with selling antiques and entire collections at Internet auctions. Some enlightening data may be gathered when reviewing the results yielded by Internet search engines in connection with "mountains and mountain culture". The following are the data compiled from the ONET and GOOGLE search engines when asked about topics connected with the subject of this paper. 

Antyki [antiques] 2.065  121.000 
Antykwariat [antique shop] 2.536 173.000
Gory [mountains] 145.850 605.000
Kolekcjoner [collector] 1.499 31.000
Kolekcjonerstwo [collecting] 596 19.500
Tatry [The Tatra Mountains] 14.572 517.000

The above data show the scale of this phenomenon, which is growing like an avalanche. Any attempt to analyse such an amount of material available on so many websites by one researcher is an unfeasible task. Our common interest calls for a systematic approach to this question by both scientists and collectors.

II. Collectors today and in the past

Mountains and mountain culture are a popular field of interest for collectors. The road that collectors have travelled stretches from Antoni Schneider to Marek Sosenka. The year 2005 will be the 125th anniversary of Antoni Schneider's suicidal death. Does his fate not symbolize the collector's fate? He is lonely and criticized by scientists, fights hard to earn any appreciation of his collection's value, and tries in vain to publicize it. We have many such pioneers of collecting in Poland. What has contributed to this state of affairs is the lack of agreement between the scientific and collecting circles as to the principles that would govern making the collections available, quoting, classification, participation in scientific events, etc. Starting a campaign that would lead to the recognition of collecting as an auxiliary science of history might solve many of the abovementioned problems. As a symbol of today's collecting, Marek Sosenko from Krakow faces a mission to permanently cross the border between collecting understood in its basic sense and collecting considered as an auxiliary science of history. In this respect, the scientific circles should assist him and many others.

The subject of collecting is based on need or fashion. Thus, the 18th century was a golden age of collecting engravings, including copperplates and etchings, which were so fashionable back then and are in such a demand today. The 19th century in the Poland deprived of its independence brought about the fashion for collecting antiquities in order to document, as it was said back then, the traces of the former glory and power of the country. The turn of the 20th century was the golden age of the postcard, the second half of the 20th century was a great time for collecting paintings, and, I believe, the 21st century will be the golden age for the collectors of old books.

There are three motives that encourage people to collect:

Business - a form of investment - with a view to regaining amounts of money that will exceed the incurred expenses. 

Science - here the goal is to extend one's knowledge about a given field of scientific interest. In this sense, Jan Matejko was a collector, as he used the artefacts he had collected to work on his historical paintings. 

Prestige - to make an impression in one's circle of friends, often with little or no understanding of the basic characteristics of the collected objects. 

The majority of collections have not been scientifically presented or systematized. A remarkable exception in this respect is postcard collecting or deltiology. Through the assistance of local municipalities, postcard albums are published in which collectors are able to present their compilations. There is an acute need for a report outlining the work on collections concerning mountains and mountain culture. Local periodicals (such as Almanach Sadecki [The Nowy Sacz Almanac], Rocznik Sadecki [The Nowy Sacz Yearbook], Almanach Muszyny [The Muszyna Almanac], Almanach Ziemi Limanowskiej [The Limanowa Region Almanac], Prace Pienińskie [The Pieniny Mountains Book], etc.) may be of some assistance in this respect. A helpful source may also be some periodicals that run regular features dedicated to this subject, e.g. the monthly Gazeta Antykwaryczna [Antique Dealer's Magazine], Art & Business, Spotkania z Zabytkami [Meet the National Monuments] or the specialized section of the daily Rzeczpospolita. Regular efforts aiming at gathering knowledge about collecting are made by the Museum of Krosniewice, which possesses the collections of Jerzy Dunin-Borkowski, who himself is called the commander-in-chief of Polish collectors. Annual collectors' meetings are organized by the museum in June.

III. An overview of collecting disciplines

When characterizing collecting disciplines in terms of their relevance to mountains and mountain culture, I would like to draw your attention to the following:

1. Books, documents, old prints, maps, cartography

The most extensive collection of books and documents concerning the subject of our interest (offered permanently and at auctions) is possessed by the antique shops Lamus in Warsaw (www.antykwariat-lamus.com.pl) and Rara Avis in Krakow (www.raraavis.krakow.pl). A rich collection is offered by Wojtowicz's antique shop in Krakow (www.antykwariat.wojtowicz.krakow.pl). The collection of Maria Ochalska's Gallery in Sturve's Villa in Warsaw is constantly growing. Notice also the collections offered by the Scientific Antique Shops from Krakow (www.antkrak.krakow.pl), Kielce (www.antyk.kielce.pl) and Bydgoszcz. The subject of mountains and mountain culture is featured by the collection of the antique shop Filar from Kielce (www.antykwariat-filar.pl). Another collection worth mentioning is that of the antique shop Poliart in Tarnowskie Gory (www.poliart.biz). Items connected with the Sudety Mountais are offered by the antique shop Wu-El from Szczecin (www.antykwariat.wu-el.pl).

The auction trade in books (including books featuring mountains) is currently on the increase. This is due to the fact that, considering the growing number of counterfeit paintings, books are becoming a safer way to invest. There are sales of significant collections. Among some periodicals that are offered at auctions are the first issues of Wierchy and Gazeta Podhalanska.

2. Stamp collecting (philately)

Usually, a quarterly philatelic auction is organized on the Internet by the portal www.znaczki-pl.com, which features stamp catalogues, registered mail labels, and receipts connected with mountain regions. A significant market position (without the Internet support, however) is enjoyed by Interfil from Warsaw, which organizes philatelic auctions in Warsaw twice a year. Slovak stamps are on offer there. Another recommendable collection connected with the field of our interest is offered at auctions organized by the portal www.alfil.cz from the Czech part of the City of Cieszyn. Let me also mention Grzegorz Marzec's firm from Krakow (www.filatelistyka.sklep.pl) and the portal www.kzp.pl.

I would like to draw your attention to the valuable source of information provided by postal receipts. I have analysed one such collection featuring Muszyna, Krynica and Zegiestow dating back to the period 1850 - 1950, which allowed me to gather information about individuals who were active socially, politically or economically. I discussed my findings in the yearbook Almanach Muszyny [The Muszyna Almanac] (Kruk, 2003).

3. Postcard collecting (deltiology)

Four times a year, large auctions for postcard collectors are organized - two in Krakow (by the antique shop Rara Avis) and two in Warsaw (through the efforts of the Polonia Corporation). One should also mention the auctions organized in Hungary by www.profila.hu and www.ulissesauctions.hu. Items connected with our region are sold at them. Significantly, large collections of postcards featuring the theme "mountains" are owned by Ryszard Bogdziewicz (Mountain Hostels), Karol Bykowski (The Karkonosze Range), Andrzej Petrykowski (The Tatras), Adam Czarnowski (mountain postcards published by PTTK), Jacek Sosenko (part of a multi-theme collection), Jerzy Zieliński (The Podkarpacie Region), Wojciech Michalcewicz (The Beskid Range and the Huculian Region), Bogdan Kowalcze (villages in the Beskid Range), and Jan Pawlik (the Town of Makow Podhalanski). I described my own collection of postcards from Muszyna, Krynica and Zegiestow in Almanach Muszyny [The Muszyna Almanac] (Kruk, 2000, 2001, 2002).

I should also mention the work that is of fundamental value to collectors, i.e. the list of postcard publishers in Poland by Jerzy Morgulc from Warsaw. Unfortunately, this publication was issued in the form of only 200 numbered copies.

4. Coin collecting (numismatics) and medal collecting

One should remember the auctions of the Numismatic Centre in Warsaw (www.wcn.pl), where one can find badges and medals connected with our region, including sports medals and the so-called substitute monies (from Zakopane and Nowy Sacz).

5. Minerals

The auctions of minerals and fossils, at which items connected with mountains are in the majority, are very popular.

6. Painting

The majority of auctions (almost 50 each year) are organized for painting collectors. The most frequently offered works featuring mountains and mountain culture were painted by such artists as Mieczyslaw Filipkiewicz, Bronislawa Rychter-Janowska, Stanislaw Galek, Rafal Malczewski, Stanislaw Kamocki, Henryk Uziemblo, Julian Falat, Stanislaw Gorski, Michal Stanko, Hanna Rudzka-Cybisowa, Maria Ritter, and others. A special group of paintings includes those that feature the Huculian culture, including paintings by Teodor Axentowicz, Fryderyk Pautsch and Kazimierz Sichulski. The official market trade in paintings is small, but part of the trade is post-auction in nature, where paintings are sold at starting prices or even more cheaply. A new phenomenon are the express auctions (with Rempex as the leader), where works of art appear at the very last moment, which makes the monitoring of their sales difficult. Other auction portals that are worth mentioning are: www.rempex.pl, www.desa.pl, www.agraart.pl,  www.polswissart.pl, www.ostoya.pl, and www.sda.pl. The portal www.artinfo.pl offers assistance in finding out about various auctions.

7. Furniture and miscellaneous items

Many items are available that originated in Kenar's Zakopane School, as well as others featuring the region: traditional furniture, sculptures, relieves, walking sticks, etc.

8. Photography

This is a new area of collecting. The auction houses of Polswiss Art. and Rempex are beginning to specialize in organizing auctions devoted to this field

IV. Real, virtual, general and specialized auctions and fairs

1. The real world

Among the numerous noteworthy weekly fairs and exchanges organized for collectors, I will emphasise those organized in Warsaw (in Kolo), Krakow (at Hala), and Bytom. Some of the annual auctions that are worth mentioning include: Katowice (October), Jelenia Gora (June), Zakopane (August), Lodz (October), Gdansk - Jarmark Dominikanski [the Dominican Fair] (August), and Poznan (June). The Collector's Calendar, published by Cwikowski's Publishing House from Bielsko Biala, a company that serves the collecting community well, is a useful tool for finding out about the schedule and venues of particular auctions.

2. The virtual world

Internet auctions are a developing form of commercial and barter exchange between collectors. In terms of the range of offered items and their turnover, the following auctions are the leaders: the global www.ebay.com, and the Polish www.allegro.pl.

Occasional reviews of eBay's offer show that it features items connected with mountain regions, e.g. stamp catalogues and photographs. Many objects offered for sale are connected with the Town of Gorlice - due to the Battle of Gorlice fought in May 1915. The coming 90th anniversary of this event may be an opportunity for collectors to present their relevant collections. The most frequently offered philatelic items are special occasion postcards and seals issued to mark the unsuccessful attempt to fly a hot air balloon into the stratosphere that was made in the Chocholow Valley in 1938. Occasionally, postcards from Nowy Sacz and other Galician towns (most probably for marketing reasons) are unjustifiably described by the sellers as judaica. The widest range of items is offered by the portal Allegro. It needs attention, as it occasionally features objects connected with mountains and mountain culture from every possible field.

V. Collectors' investigations

Apart from journalist investigations, which have become so fashionable today, there are collector investigations conducted by people who, based on their collections, correct false information spread by recognized authorities. Based on my own analysis of the postcards made in accordance with some photographs taken at the turn of the 20th century, including those taken by the Zajaczkowski Family from the Town of Krosno, whose work proves to be of great assistance when documenting local historic monuments, I proved in my article published in The Muszyna Almanac (Kruk 2004) that the drawing by Szczesny-Morawski dating back to 1865, which determined the outline of Muszyna's castle's wall, was wrongly interpreted. The renovation work performed in the 1970s that was based on this false interpretation changed the true appearance of the castle.

VI. Conclusion

1. Monitoring the auction market

It is essential to start systematic monitoring and popularise within the collecting environment the knowledge about the range of items offered (1) at auctions (with special attention paid to items connected with mountains and mountain culture), (2) at Internet auctions (whose role in connection with the trade in the items of our interest is rapidly growing - there are approximately 20 major auctions each year), (3) at fairs, exchanges and other collecting events (there are more than 50 events of that type of any significance; their schedule should be updated in collectors' calendars), (4) in antique shops (there are approximately 100 leading establishments of this kind; there is a need to order them according to their relevance to the subject of our interest), and (5) in books and periodicals (which are helpful to collectors when seeking information of their interest and recording research results that are published).

Due to the lack of funds and, possibly, the ability to follow the latest events on the collecting market, the supervision performed by the institutions designed to search the most interesting publications on the market (I mean the National Library and the Jagiellonian Library) is limited. In this situation, mobilizing the scientific and collecting circles to perform constant monitoring of the auction market in terms of the availability of items connected with mountains and mountain culture should be treated as the priority. I do it myself on the website www.kolekcjonerstwo.pl, where I present the information in two categories: DATES (information on the events to take place on the collecting market) and FACTS (revision of past events and publications). You are invited to visit my website and provide information, which I will post on the web for others to use.

2. Systematisation of the items

The development of collecting as an auxiliary science of history calls for item systematisation. The following is a suggested classification system that assigns a code to each individual item in the following categories: item type, material, time period, and region.

Item type: (01)banknotes, (02)tickets, (03)jewellery, (04)bottles, (05)pottery, (06)periodicals and magazines, (07)ball pens, (08)documents, (09)labels, (10)pipes, (11)figurines, (12)philately, (13)photography, (14)engravings, (15)buttons, (16)calendars, (17)bottle caps, (18)playing cards, (19)phone cards, (20)children's surprises, (21)toy trains, (22)books, (23)mugs, (24)lamps, (25)letters, (26)aviation, (27)painting, (28)maps, (29)furniture, (30)medals, (31)military, (32)minerals, (33)coins, (34)stickers, (35)badges, (36)numismatics, (38)orders, (39)wrappers and packages, (40)mementos connected with PRL (The Polish People's Republic), (41)securities, (42)posters, (45)plates, (46)postcards, (47)beer coasters, (48)china, (49)radio engineering, (50)advertising, (51)sculpture, (52)cars, (53)fossils, (54)silverware, (55)old print, (56)glass, (57)modern art, (58)leaflets, (59)business cards; CODE 01-99

Material: (P) paper, (M) metal, (D) wood, (S) glass, (I) other; CODE A - Z
Time period: CODE: Century I - XXI, years 01-99 (where the year is unknown, only the century is provided) 

Region: Alphabetical system - the first two letters of the name of a region, e.g. Malopolska (MA) Here is an example of how to use such a coding system. The item is a postcard showing the Marketplace in Nowy Sacz from 1901. Its code would be: 46P1901MA

3. Coordination and scientific supervision

It is essential that a scientific research centre begins a systematic supervision of drawing from the collectors' bank of knowledge about mountains and mountain culture and that efforts are made to pave the way to eventual recognition of collecting as an auxiliary science of history. This task could be undertaken by the Podhale State College of Vocational Education. 

Ryszard Kruk



Szymanski J., 2004, Nauki pomocnicze historii, PWN, Warsaw.
Kruk R., 2000, Muszyna na dawnej pocztowce, in Almanach Muszyny, pp. 133-144.
Kruk R., 2001, Zegiestow na dawnej pocztowce, in Almanach Muszyny, pp.145-157.
Kruk R., 2002, Krynica na dawnej pocztowce, in Almanach Muszyny, pp. 120-135.
Kruk R., 2003, Recepisy pocztowe 1870-1945. Muszyna, Krynica, Zegiestow, in Almanach Muszyny, pp. 91-103.
Kruk R., 2004, Zarys granic zamku w Muszynie wg dawnych pocztowek, in Almanach Muszyny, pp. 97-102. 

источник публикации
Muszyna Almanac

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