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Centre of Community Archives

The history of many communities, events, and places would have never been told if it weren’t for the passion and engagement of hundreds of individuals and groups that form the community archives movement. The Centre of Community Archives was established in 2020 on the initiative of the KARTA Centre and the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage to support this grassroot movement.

We share knowledge, we inspire and support initiatives of the archivists all across Poland. We help create new community archives to preserve as many testimonies of community life as possible, and to properly secure them. Together with more than 700 community archives from all corners of Poland, we foster interest in social history so that we can better understand the past and the present.

What do we do?

  • We educate – both beginners and more experienced archivists – how to describe and digitise archive material, how to store the collection and record oral history interviews, among other things.
  • We run the Community Collections portal ( – where you can browse through thousands of sources shared by community archives from Poland: photographs, documents of everyday life, audio and video recordings.
  • We develop the Open Archiving System – a free online tool to archive and describe sources, currently used by more than 300 community archives.
  • We organise meetings and events – which serve as a platform for mutual inspiration and exchange of experiences. Most notable examples are the Community Archives Congress and the Summer Academy for Community Archives.
  • We promote community archives from the whole country – both small and large, run by organisations and individuals alike. We popularise the idea of a community archive as a way to discover local history and to engage the community to build a strong civil society.
  • We animate the community archive movement – with cultural projects, publications, contests, meetings, and discussions. We encourage creators to make the most of the richness of sources and the stories they carry.
  • We develop a strategy and a textbook for community archives – which are meant to suggest positive practices in gathering and sharing community collections.

What are community archives?

The power of community archives lies in their vernacular character

Most initiatives operate in small towns where people who develop the archives encourage communities to take an interest in history – they integrate neighbours in intergenerational projects and transform their immediate surroundings. However, the range of interests among community archivists is broad and extends beyond regional history. It includes areas such as the history of Polish nurses, documentation of jazz concerts, or the lives of women in rural areas.

The community archive movement is built upon the activity of over 700 communities

What links these initiatives? Passion, activity, and novel methods of operation. Passion is at the core of the creation of community archives, it is their essence. Activities primarily consist in the search for sources in non-traditional places and in diverse ways of bringing them closer to the community. Empathy towards people and sensitivity to their stories are also inherent in the idea of community archives.

Community archives form a dynamically developing field within communal life

The field encompasses activities of foundations, associations, libraries, and informal groups contributing to the development of a civic society with a sense of subjectivity, a society which records its own history. Despite being spontaneous and passion-driven, this field boasts its own tools and a methodology developed over the years.

The study of community archives is a rapidly developing academic field

Until recently, community archives were rarely explored by researchers, but now they are being taught at universities and are the subject of numerous academic studies and conferences. The Centre of Community Archives invites all to collaborate and explore the field, the people engaged in it, its resources, methods, and tools.