On 2 February 1878, the National Archives for Town and District Documents was established in Cracow. This date is recognized as the beginning of the State Archives in Cracow. After Poland gained its independence, the National Archives for Town and District Documents in Cracow come under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Religious Denominations and Public Education on 1 October 1919, and was re-named the District Archives. In 1936 its name was changed to the State Archives.

In 1887, another archival institution, the Archives for Former Documents of Cracow, was established. It was merged with the State Archives on 1 February 1952. The resources of the two archives consisted of 4,500 running meters of documents at that time. Now there are around 16,000 running meters of documents from the 12th to the 20th century stored in the archives. Both with respect to the amount, and the importance of the documents, the archives in Cracow are among the most important state archives in Poland.

The above mentioned 16,000 running meters of documents comprise of 2,700 archival groups of documents and consist of over 500,000 archival items. Among them, it is worth mentioning a 3,500-item collection of parchment documents (1155-1927). These documents, belonging to various archival groups of documents, collections and historical archives of aristocratic families, provide rich source materials for studying the history of the Polish state, local self-governing bodies, religious institutions, families and individuals. As for their territorial range, the stored documents cover both the present and former lands belonging to Poland.

The collection of the Rusiecki family (1211-1860) has some documents of great value: we find there documents from the Cracow Crown Archives, privileges of towns and villages, as well as dispersed and fragmentary collections that once belonged to extremely wealthy monasteries. Apart from the Rusiecki Collection, there are also other collections of great importance. Among them are Schneider's Collection (1773-1879), containing documents and iconography of several thousand little towns and villages in Galicia, Ambroży Grabowski's Collection (16th-19th century), having about 10,000 iconographic items with the sights of Cracow and other towns or villages, the iconographic collection of the oldest maps and sights of Cracow (15th-19th century), the cartographic collection (16th-20th century), the photographic collection (19th-20th century), the sphragistic collection (12th-20th century), the collection of notices and advertisements (19th-20th century), the collection of conspiratorial press (1939-1945), and the collection of "Solidarity" materials (1980-1989).

The most important groups of documents include the following: the Old Polish Archives of Cracow (1257-1795); the Archives of Kazimierz, and the Archives of Kleparz; the Archives of jurisdiction and the Archives of the suburbia of Cracow. One should pay attention to the Old Polish town and district court registers (1374-1795): it is the most numerous group of such documents as far as Polish archives are concerned. We should also mention the historical archives of Polish great aristocratic families: the archives of the Chodkiewiczs, Potockis, Sanguszkos and Tarnowskis, whose materials go back as far as the 13th and 14th centuries. Among the numerous groups of documents issued during the partition of Poland, one should pay particular attention to the files and records of the head office of the police in Cracow (1849-1918) containing rich source materials for studying the history of political movements in Cracow and Galicia. The group of documents that is most frequently made use of are the documents belonging to the Supreme National Committee (Naczelny Komitet Narodowy: 1914-1920), illustrating the Polish fight for independence during World War I. The history of Cracow during the Nazi occupation is reflected in the documents of the Starosta of Cracow (1939-1945), while the final years of the local self-government are to be found in the documents of the Municipal Government (1945-1950) and the Voivodship Office (1945-1950). Also courts' and public prosecutor's registers from the post-war period constitute very valuable source materials.

The archival resources are complemented with a considerable scientific library, consisting of over 50,000 volumes and a collection of Cracovian and Galician press.

The building at 16 Sienna Street has an interesting history as well. It used to accomodate the Archives of Former Documents of Cracow from 1887 on; and nowadays, it is the main headquarters of our archives. In this very building, the Society of the Lovers of Cracow's History and Monuments was founded in 1896. In the same building the Society of the Conservators of Western Galicia also held its meetings. The Society was the forerunner of the later organized state institution for the preservation of historical monuments.

Since 1995, the State Archives has published its own annual magazine Krakowski Rocznik Archiwalny, mainly with the contributions from the Archive's employees.

The State Archives is still open and accumulates materials sent by the state or local government institutions, associations, registry offices, state-owned enterprises, and also private individuals. First and foremost, it accepts archival documents concerning the history of Cracow and of the region, but also materials concerning former eastern lands of the Polish Commonwealth, complementary to the archives that belong to Polish families.

All archival groups of documents have their inventories, or lists - however, only half of the whole collection has complete inventories in a book form. A majority of the records of the registry offices, the results of public censuses, the courts' registers (particularly, the Old Polish ones) and the lists of prisoners from German prisons and labour camps in the years 1939 - 1945 are indexed.

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