Before the project’s implementation, only Książnica and the State Archives had the institutional, organisational and technical expertise and experience to safeguard, conserve, catalogue and make accessible their holdings. The two institutions were both housed in premises guaranteeing adequate storage conditions, including alarm and fire protection systems and air conditioned repositories, and accessibility.
In addition, right from the start, Książnica has implemented a programme for the safeguarding and conservation of its collections, focussing not only on prophylactics and the wellbeing of the entire resource, but also on the restoration of selected items. Książnica was the only institution with a professional conservation workshop. The Cieszyn Branch of the State Archives only made very limited use of the services of the conservation workshop in the Archive’s Katowice headquarters.
The collections in the other institutions were lacking appropriate care. No formal regulations even existed to define their organisational status. Storage conditions did not fulfil elementary standards of air-conditioning, and their premises did not possess fire protection or security systems, as well as lacking basic equipment.
Taken as a whole, the collections belonging to the other institutions were extremely soiled, significantly afflicted by various types of physicochemical damage and infected by microorganisms. This was all causing their continuing deterioration and – bearing in mind the poor storage conditions and the presence of a considerable quantity of defective items – could rapidly have led to their total destruction in a short time. In actual fact, a significant degree of damage was actually typical for all the Cieszyn archive and library collections, which was a consequence of their lengthy storage in inappropriate conditions, accidents (the water damage in 1987 of around 1 000 books currently belonging to Książnica), frequent changes of location and the particular susceptibility of certain types of items to physicochemical damage.
In most of the other institutions, the standards of processing and cataloguing the collections, which directly influence their safety and their accessibility, were significantly at odds with the requirements defined in the relevant regulations. The inventories and catalogues were incomplete, did not correspond to contemporary norms and were rife with numerous errors and inconsistencies.
Systematic work to correct, modernise and make available the documentation was only being carried out in Książnica, and in the State Archives on the manuscript collection. In the remaining institutions inventorying and cataloguing work was only being done selectively, on a limited scale – or not at all. Only Książnica, the State Archives and – to a limited extent – the Tschammer Library made their collections available to all visitors, through their reading rooms. Access to the collections in the other institutions was sporadic, generally carried out informally and required specific permission on each occasion.