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Maria Sliwinska

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Looking for the Needle in the Haystack: Small, Unique Collections - How to find hidden gems?

We all are aware of importance of national institutions like national libraries, archives, museums, galleries and the vast resources they offer. However even there are millions items and objects available in a big library, archive or museum, there is no such an institution in the world that can satisfy all our needs. Quite often when looking for materials, researchers have to visit some distant places to discover an important information for their research. But how is to find an information about a small but important collection? In the information era, when we are bombarded by millions hints from the internet, getting valuable information about a rare small collection is as difficult as finding the needle in the haystack. They are simply hidden, not advertised in internet that means not accessible. Even small libraries have their materials catalogued, and archives and museums have their collections described on their home pages, there is not easy for a scientist to find such information. It's simply impossible to make thousands of searches in so many small catalogues to get unknown materials that make research completed.
A good solution is offered by librarians are the union catalogues. Union catalogue is very helpful when a researcher knows what s/he is looking for but is not enough. Additional support comes from the MICHAEL project that promotes collections available not only on-line but off-line as well. In this project information about collections from small institutions can be equal or sometimes even more important than those from the big libraries, archives and museum. Information about the collections available from a trusted and structured source with one access point makes research easier and complete. The hidden resources became visible not only to the researches who are looking for them, but can inspire tourists to visit a number of museums or other attractions that were not known and not advertised in the popular guides. The hidden gems can breed an epidemy and attract thousands of tourists and millions of Internauts like did the Victorian Dolls Museum in Liverpool discovered by Internauts when went on the net.
Small institutions and collections can be very valuable for foreign visitors who always feel interested in seeing remains of culture of their ancestors in the countries they visit. As an example can serve a small Mennonites museum in Tczew or Nowy Dwór Gdanski with objects of Dutch settlement in that region. There is also a rare chance that a tourist knows about such a unique book as one of 48 copies of Gutenberg Bible available in a small museum in Pelplin or about valuable for Hungarian culture manuscripts of king Mathias Corvin available in public library in Torun, or about Czech Amos Comensky archival materials available in Leszno. Pola Negri - the first Hollywood famous actress - museum in Lipno where she was born can be a surprise even for people who are professionally involved in her biography preparation - it's time to reveal the hidden gems to the world.

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