Apart from carrying out programmes related to the protection, conservation and cataloguing of our resources, Cieszyn Library is also involved in scientific activities and creates documentary tools for use in regional research. Initiatives in these spheres were directly inspired by the nature and contents of our resources. Our projects focus mostly on matters related to the broadly-defined written culture of Cieszyn Silesia. We are trying to implement such projects in cooperation with scientific centres located in Cieszyn, all over Poland and abroad.
The regional set of documentary tools which is being created in Cieszyn Library includes our collection, to which we systematically add all kinds of prints and manuscripts from or about our region, and cataloguing tools, whose elements related to our region we are constantly trying to expand. However, regional documentary tools are also made up of all kinds of bibliographies, printed collection catalogues, maps which visualize the condition of the Polish ethnic group in the Trans-Olza Region, as well as the full text of a regional catalogue. Since 2004, this catalogue is available online as “Digital Biographic Dictionary of Cieszyn Silesia”, a factual database which contains biographical entries of people who were involved in social life in Cieszyn Silesia or were born in this region. The content of the “Dictionary”, which includes over 8000 entries, can be searched using various criteria. Users can make lists depending on their individual needs. We need to bear in mind that information in the “Dictionary” refers not only to biographical matters, but indirectly also to all other aspects of the history and contemporary life in the region.
Another important action undertaken in the documentary and scientific sphere is the programme called “Catalogues and Inventories of Cieszyn Library”. The programme is being implemented jointly by Cieszyn Library, the Jagiellonian Library and the Centre for Silesian and Bohemian Research at the University of Wrocław. Its aim is to prepare and publish inventories and catalogues of selected fragments of our collection. So far, two works appeared in print, namely an edition of Repertorium Codicum Manuscriptorum in caes. reg. Bibliotheca Scherschnickiana Teschinii from 1824 and a catalogue of medieval manuscripts from this collection prepared by Marian Zwiercan. The project was financed by a donation from Scientific Research Committee granted to the Centre for Silesian and Bohemian Research at the University of Wrocław. It was implemented in the years 1995-2003. What we are planning to do next is prepare an extensive guide to all literary collections in Cieszyn.
In 2004, Cieszyn Library cooperated with the Documentary Centre of the Congress of Poles in the Czech Republic and launched a serial publication, whose aim is to popularize unknown or inaccessible historical sources related to the past of Cieszyn Silesia, from the Middle Ages to the present. The publication, entitled Bibliotheca Tessinensis, comes out in two versions. One of them, Series Polonica, is published by Cieszyn Library, and the second, Series Bohemica, is published by the Documentary Centre of the Congress of Poles in the Czech Republic. So far, eight issues of Bibliotheca Tessinensis have been published (in 12 volumes). They contained new editions of genealogical and heraldic materials related to the history of nobility in Cieszyn, Cieszyn Chronicle from the first half of the 19th century written by Alojzy Kaufmann, a collection of works by Leopold J. Szersznik, Dziennik [Daily] published by Andrzej Cinciała in the years 1846-1853, minutes of plenary meetings of the National Council of the Duchy of Cieszyn from the years 1918-1920, documents related to the Cieszyn conflict and its bearing on the relations between Poland and Czechoslovakia in the years 1945-1949, as well as materials devoted to the relations between government bodies, churches, religious associations and ethnic groups in the Trans-Olza Region in the years 1945-1953.
As a result of cooperation with Polish and foreign scientific centres, we organized various research programmes and held numerous scientific conferences in Cieszyn. The first such events took place in the years 1994-1995 and were related to planning the activities of Cieszyn Library. The agenda was devoted to documentary and informative activities which would serve the needs of the regional scientific movement, as well as to the protection of the regional written heritage (“On the problems of protection, conservation and registration of the regional written heritage” – 1994, “Polish nationwide seminar and workshops on the protection of regional historic collections” – 1995). The third conference, organized in 1996, was slightly different (“Historic book collections in Cieszyn in relation to the rest of Silesia. Cultural significance and subject of research”). Delegates presented and debated on expert opinions given after a few months of examining historic book collections in Cieszyn. The analyses were conducted by Polish, Czech and German book experts and historians. The result of these works was an extensive and reliably documented analysis which included not only an evaluation of the collections from Cieszyn, but also their importance for Silesian, Polish, Czech and German written culture. Experts formulated conclusions on the needs, possibilities and conditions of using historic book collections in interdisciplinary research. The next two conferences were monographic. The first one was organized in 1997 and devoted to the biography and works of Reverend Leopold J. Szersznik (“The Known and Unknown Reverend Leopold Jan Szersznik”). The second, which took place in 1999, was devoted to issues on the border of the history of education and book culture in Cieszyn Silesia (“Book – Library – School in Cieszyn Silesian Culture”). The next conference, organized in 2007 as part of a project called “Common Sources”, was inspired by works on the edition of Gedenkbuch der Stadt Teschen by A. Kaufmann, a chronicle and an essay which meets the elementary standards of a scientific work. The conference was devoted to the theory and practice of regional and local historiography which is practiced by both professionals and amateurs (“A chronicler and a historian. Strengths and weaknesses of regional historiography”). In 2010, there was a conference entitled “Between theory and practice. Protecting resources in small libraries and archives”. It was organized to close the project entitled “Protection and Conservation of the Written Heritage of Cieszyn” and it served to confront international legal regulations, norms and model solutions for the protection of library collections with daily hands-on experience of employees of small libraries and archives, mainly those created in churches. The conference was also an opportunity for institutions which took part in the project to present their achievements. In the same year, Cieszyn Library held a conference entitled “The Polish factor in relations between Czechia and Slovakia in the years 1918-1945”. The conference was part of the 33rd meeting of the Czech and Slovak Commission of Historians. The theme of the conference revolved around the relations between Poland, Czechia, Slovakia and Hungary in the 20th century. A year later, Cieszyn Library held a conference entitled “Divided regions – Divided historic cultures? / Geteilte Regionen – geteilte Geschichtskultur(en)”, which was organized as part of European Network Remembrance and Solidarity. Papers delivered on the conference were devoted to European regions which were divided with new state borders as a result of political decisions made in the 20th century and thus lost their integrity, which had been formed by centuries-old historical processes.
Materials from all conferences were published as independent publications, whereas papers delivered on two of them were shared online as an e-book. In the years 1994-2018, Cieszyn Library published 29 publications, a few exhibition catalogues and extensive brochures. While we always strive for our publications to be of high scientific standards, we also attach great importance to an impressive graphic design and a durable form.
Cieszyn Library, which is a multifunctional research and cultural centre, attaches great importance to promoting knowledge and to educational activities. The object of our educational and promoting activities is book culture, history of literature, as well as the history and culture of Cieszyn Silesia. In this sphere, we cooperate with regional cultural institutions, associations and, above all, educational institutions. Our offer is aimed mostly at children and youth. It complements regional education programs carried out in schools. Obviously, this activity, which makes it possible to effectively promote knowledge about our resources and the possibilities of using them, also aims at promoting Cieszyn Library and its offer.
The basic tools used in promotional activities are exhibitions which we organize periodically, about four times a year. They are held in our library gallery and since 2010 also in the open air. Apart from book history, the theme of our exhibitions revolves around the history and culture of Cieszyn Silesia. Exhibitions show the richness and openness of the old Silesian culture and constitute an important element of regional education. When we prepare exhibition programmes, we always remember about a broad cultural audience. This is the target group of our holiday offer, which usually involves monographic exhibitions showing particularly valuable, richly illustrated materials that are really spectacular. Lately, our outdoor exhibitions on the Market Square in Cieszyn have become quite popular. We also display such exhibitions in other towns in the region and sometimes they are shown outside its borders, e.g. in Warsaw or in Katowice. A few exhibitions were also shared online on our website.
An important element of our educational offer are library lessons organized in two cycles. They are devoted to book history and the collection and activities of Cieszyn Library. They are aimed at students of all types of schools. At the end of each lesson, students are given copies of “Certificate of young expert on old books”. Cieszyn Library also organizes competitions and workshops which are aimed mainly at youth.
Apart from regular exhibitions, lessons and competitions, our cultural offer includes occasional events related to special occasions celebrated in our town, for example “Cieszyn Night of Museums”, “Treasures from the Cieszyn Coffer”, etc. We organize all sorts of shows, workshops, lectures, public discussions, Q and A’s with authors, and launches of new publications. A series of lectures and shows entitled “Rarities from Cieszyn Library”, which we initiated in 2014, also became quite popular. During monthly meetings, employees of our library present the results of their own research on selected items from our collection.