Inventory of Theodor Joseph Blell’s collection: a critical study is the latest publication carried out as part of the War Losses of the Malbork Castle Museum project – study of the acquired material. Stage I, co-financed by the program of the Minister of Culture and National Heritage Researching Polish War Losses.

One of the main goals of the project carried out by a team of employees of the Malbork Castle Museum is to consolidate, examine and develop the available archival material, as well as all sources concerning the old collections of the Malbork Castle. The presented publication is a tangible result of activities in this area. The source, whose fate connects the history of the National Museum in Wrocław, the Malbork Castle and the Malbork Castle Museum that has been functioning there for 60 years, is evidence of exemplary museum practices and fruitful cooperation between cultural institutions. I will tackle the answer to why that is in a moment..

Let us first take a look at the document, on which the team consisting of: Dr. Daniel Gosk, Aleksander Masłowski, Bartłomiej Butryn, in cooperation with Aleksandra Siuciak, worked on for two years.

Blell’sche Waffensammlung im Hochschloss d. Marienburg 1894-1944 is a handwritten inventory of Theodor Joseph Blell’s collection, purchased in June 1894 for the collection of the Malbork Castle. This inconspicuous notebook was created for the needs of the castle administration, and as it turned out during research, it was a shortened and more economical form (probably for the purposes of the transaction) of a complete list of collections, a copy of which is now in the resources of the State Archives in Malbork. The inventory was continued, subsequent monuments acquired for the castle were entered into it, hence the date 1944 in the title of the document.

Even a superficial analysis of the source allowed for the conclusion that the purchased collection (contrary to the title on the cover) was not only a collection of military items, as it contained several objects and monuments defined as cultural and historical (among them there were utility, decorative and natural objects). In total, the collection consisted of 2,919 objects, of which less than half – 1,310 objects – were military.

The presented inventory is unique in many respects. Above all, however, it is the only, most fully preserved list of the collection kept at the Malbork Castle up to 1945, therefore it is an invaluable source for provenance research.

The post-war fate of the inventory itself is as interesting as its contents. We do not know its exact history; however, we can presume that shortly after the end of hostilities in March 1945, it still remained in the castle, and after the Polish Army took care of the stronghold and the creation of Branch No. 1 of the Polish Army Museum in Warsaw within its walls, it was entered in resources of this castle. institutions, as well as other buildings previously secured by the Poviat Starosty in Malbork. First Alicja Godlewska became the head of the newly created branch in Malbork, and a year later Zofia Hendzel, with whom we associate the relocation of the census of interest to us. Zofia Hendzel was an active participant and witness of activities related to the post-war securing of the castle collections. She managed this institution until its liquidation in 1950. Then she was transferred to Branch No. 2 of the MWP in Wrocław and, probably being aware of the value of the document, she took it with her. However, these are only assumptions. The unexpected appearance of the inventory in the collection of the National Museum in Wrocław, however, may confirm this theory. At the end of the 1990s, Antoni Romuald Chodyński, the then curator of the Malbork military collection, researcher of the Blellow collection, discovered the discussed source in the resources of the Wrocław museum and introduced it to the scientific circulation. Over the next years, the building remained forgotten. The fate of the Malbork collections after World War II led to reminders of the importance of this document for the Malbork museum. In this way, in 2015, after nearly 70 years, the inventory was presented within the walls of the castle. The culmination of the fate of the manuscript was the moment of its transfer to the collection of the Castle Museum in Malbork by Dr. hab. Piotr Oszczanowski, director of the National Museum in Wrocław. The ceremonial handover took place in Malbork on March 14, 2019, during the nationwide scientific conference New Beginning. (Od) building museum collections after World War II. Thanks to this wonderful gesture, our museum was enriched with a small physical certificate, which is a tangible proof of the existence of an extraordinary collection in Malbork. Proof of the activity of our predecessors, whose work we are continuing, and thanks to the implemented project, we can get to know better and better.

Theodor Joseph Blell's Inventory; Malbork Castle Museum, inw. MZM/DH/1988.

This precious gift created a kind of obligation for us to bring its contents closer to scientists and history enthusiasts. The result of the work of the research team is the source edition (transcription and translation) with a critical commentary.

The publication was preceded by an introduction to the issue of the castle’s military collection and a brief overview of the cultural and historical part. The texts are supplemented with illustrations from the Annals of the Castle Reconstruction (Marienburg Baujahr), which show the functioning of Blellow monuments in the castle space. It is also an excellent material complementing the identification of individual artifacts (or entire groups of objects) and their deeper analysis.

The core of the publication is a translation into Polish along with comments containing research findings in relation to selected items of the inventory, in the form of an annotation apparatus. They relate to both linguistic and terminological issues, as well as various aspects that expand the field of interpretation of a given issue.

The principle adopted by the publisher was to reproduce the original as accurately as possible, both in terms of its content and its form. Of course, this was not 100% possible, and any deviations are explained in the introduction to the translation and in the footnotes.

The book also includes a transcript of the document, allowing specialized researchers to compare the content of the source with its translation. Thus, a document made available to the full extent, to a wide group of recipients, may become the subject of a scientific dispute. We are aware that our studies do not fully cover the issue. However, this is an important stage that can initiate joint provenance research with museums to which Blellow artifacts have found their way throughout history.

(compiled by Aleksandra Siuciak)

Inwentarz kolekcji Theodora Josepha Blella: opracowanie krytyczne

Malbork 2021

oprac.: Daniel Gosk, Aleksander Masłowski, Bartłomiej Butryn

współpraca: Aleksandra Siuciak

transkrypcja i tłumaczenie: Aleksander Masłowski

329 s., format B5

ISBN 978-83-958986-6-2

Dofinansowano ze środków Ministra Kultury, Dziedzictwa Narodowego i Sportu pochodzących z Funduszu Promocji Kultury

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