The State Archives in Gdansk keep a precious source for research into the wartime losses of the City Museum and the Decorative Arts Museum in Gdansk (Stadt- und Kunstgewerbemuseum Danzig). It is an inventory of pre-war glass negatives belonging to the City Museum: Plattenverzeichniss, inv. no. 1384/60. The hand-written list drawn up in the German language records 10,000 objects and concerns negatives from the period 1915-1944. The book, consisting of 675 pages, is divided into 11 columns providing the following information on each recorded negative:
- its inventory number (Nr.); these numbers provided a unique identification of each negative and were recorded not only in the list, but were also placed directly on the glass plates and the reverse side of prints developed from these negatives,
- its author’s name (Name des Künstlers); the entries provide the artists’ first name and surname or just the surname; in the case of anonymous works, this box remains empty in the majority of cases, although not entirely consistently – sometimes, a genre of art is recorded here, which is more often entered in the subsequent box Beschreibung des Gegenstandes (e.g. Silber, Textilien, Metall), place of origin of the object (e.g. Artushof) or a collective determination of the topic of photographs (e.g. Innenraum, Innungsstücke);
- a description of the photographed object (Beschreibung des Gegenstandes); entries record such information as the genre of art (e.g. Glas, Fayence, Holz, Plastik, Handzeichen, Malerei, Pastell, Silber, Aquarell, Möbel), name or title of the object, sometimes the first name and surname of the artist, and sometimes also its place of origin (e.g. Artushof, Marienkirche, Domschatz Pelplin). In the case of museum holdings, sometimes the inventory number is also quoted along with the marking Stm (Stadtmuseum) or Kgm (Kunstgewerbemuseum);
- information on the author of the photograph (Aufgenommen von) – the surname of the photographer or the ordering party is given here; the surname Gottheil can also be found, referring to the Gdansk photographic atelier Gottheil & Sohn, established in the mid-19th century by Julius Gottheil. The most frequent entry is: Museum; sometimes there is also the surname of the manager or curator (e.g. Abramowski – Museum; Dr M. Museum; Paul Abramowski – curator of the Museum in 1922-1929; Walter Mannowsky – director of the Museum in 1922-1938). There are also inscriptions testifying that photographs were also taken for third parties (such as Focke Museum Bremen; Möller Berlin);
- information on the date on which the photo was taken (Aufgenommen am) – the date on which the negative was made is recorded here; most often it is a full name or an abbreviation of the name of the month and the year (e.g. Dez. 1929; April 1917); only the year is given in the case of some batches of negatives; a small number of negatives is accompanied by a day date; some of the entries have no date at all; this applies probably to the negatives made before 1915. The earliest recorded date is 21.05.1915; the last one is September 1944;
- information on the format of the negative (Gröβe) – the following formats were recorded: 13x18; 18x24; 9x12; 6½x9; 6x9; 8½x10; and 24x30 (all in centimetres);
- the subsequent four columns with the joint heading Preis recorded the objects’ provenance to a particular collection; they are, successively: Stadt (Stadtmuseum), Provinz (i.e. Provinzial-Gewerbemuseum), Vorb. S. (photos of objects outside of the Museum, collected in the museum photo library) and Kabrun (Kabrun’s collection);
- the last column was designated for notes (Bemerkungen), and is empty in the majority of cases; sporadically, it contains entries on the damage of the negative (Platte zerbrochen) or, for example, on the ordering party (e.g. Platte an Herrn Prof. Krischen gegeben).
The cataloguing of the Plattenverzeichniss as a part of the project co-financed by the Ministry of Science and National Heritage, which was carried out in 2019, allows a preliminary analysis of the contents of the source. Apart from the works originating from the collections of the City Museum and the Museum of Decorative Arts, representing various areas – graphic arts, drawing, painting, sculpture, furniture, ceramics, and metalwork – the collection of glass negatives also included photographs of historical objects from Gdansk churches and municipal buildings (such as the Town Hall and Artus Court), works of art from Pomeranian churches, as well as photos of reproductions of works of art from all over Europe.
Fewer than a thousand glass plates from the pre-war negatives recorded in this source have survived until our own times. Photographic prints developed from the negatives before the Second World War, which are now kept by the Herder Institute in Marburg, allow a partial supplementation of the collection destroyed during the war.