125th anniversary of Oskar Kolberg's death

3 June 2015

Oskar Kolberg died exactly 125 years ago, on 3 June 1890 in Kraków and was laid to rest at the Rakowicki Cemetery. Marking the death of this prominent folklorist and ethnographer, on 1 June 2015, representatives of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, the Oskar Kolberg Institute, the Oskar Kolberg Museum in Przysucha, and the Institute of Music and Dance, laid flowers and lit candles at his grave, renovated last year.

Oskar Kolberg worked and lived in Kraków from the autumn of 1884 in very poor conditions. He went on his last field trip in 1885, visiting the area of Sanok and Przemyśl. In 1885–90 he published five monographic books on the folklore of different Polish regions: "Kieleckie" (Kielce area), "Radomskie" (Radom area), "Łęczyckie" (Łęczyca area), "Mazowsze" (Mazovia), and "Pokucie", as well as the first part of "Kaliskie" (Kalisz area) and "Chełmskie" (Chełm area).

After his death, Izydor Kopernicki, Kolberg's friend, managed to put together the writings he left behind and publish the second part of "Chełmskie" and "Przemyskie" (Przemyśl area). At the beginning of the 20th century, J. Tretiak published "Wołyń" (1907), while S. Udziela released "Górny Śląsk" (Upper Silesia, 1906) and "Tarnów. Rzeszów" (1910). The reminder of the manuscripts waited untouched until the work on "The Collected Works of Oskar Kolberg" started.

Henryk Oskar Kolberg amassed an collection of source materials that has proved invaluable for Polish science and culture. He devised and carried out a large-scale programme of folkloristic and ethnographic research and gave us a multi-volume opus "Lud, jego zwyczaje, sposób życia, mowa, podania, przysłowia, obrzędy, gusła, zabawy, pieśni muzyka i tańce", which translates as "The people, their customs, way of life, speech, legends, proverbs, rites, pagan ceremonies, games, songs, music and dances", along with scores of manuscripts. His research portraits 19th-century folk culture in the pre-partition territory of Poland, reflecting its regional diversity and richness. No other European nation may boast such a treasury of source materials dating back to those times, especially pertaining to folk music, developed according to a systematically implemented plan. For over 150 years now, the documentation that Kolberg gathered has been serving Polish ethnographers, folklorists, and ethomusicologists, just as its author wanted.