ethnographer, historian, museologist, collector, and educator; b. 26th March 1900 in Głogów Małopolski, d. 22nd April 1983 in Rzeszów. He was a writer, propagator of knowledge, and author of historical and cultural concepts. He obtained teaching diplomas having studied in Rzeszów (1920) and Toruń (1929).
Already as a child Franciszek Kotula had had a passion for collecting. When he became a history teacher he used his archeological and ethnographic artefacts as teaching aids. Assigned to establish the Regional Museum of the Rzeszów Land (Muzeum Regionalne Ziemi Rzeszowskiej) in 1935, he donated his collection to the newly founded institution, whose pro bono curator he soon became. After WWII, as the museum's official director, he focused on collecting artefacts of folk culture. He also gathered a rich private archive of manuscripts, drawings, photographs, and audio recordings, which he planned use as materials for academic papers. As the director of the District Museum (Muzeum Okręgowe) (1950-59) and then head of the ethnography department (until 1970) he organised 20 fieldwork camps which brought about numerous collections of papers on the history and folk culture of different regions. In 1954 he was promoted to associate professor in recognition for his cultural and academic achievements. He also received the Kolberg Award (1976), Silver and Gold Medal of Merit, and Knight's Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta.
He has left a unique legacy recorded in numerous publications, book and paper manuscripts, and a rich archive of fieldwork findings. A bibliography of his works from 1937 to 1977 contains 25 independent publications (mostly books); 545 articles, dissertations, reviews, polemics, and reportage pieces published in academic journals, regional press, or occasional publications (see: S. Darłakowa, R. Płonka Bibliografia prac Franciszka Kotuli, in: Prace i materiały z badań etnograficznych, Rzeszów 1979).
He wrote about medieval and contemporary history, was interested in economics, urbanisation, history of technology, archeology, yet his greatest passion was ethnography. He devoted many of his most significant works to folklore. He wrote about pottery, Upper Lusatian half-timbered house construction, furniture making, and forest industries, using available historical records to explain the genesis of many cultural phenomena. He understood folklore as a resource for historical study. As he did not have a proper academic background, Kotula did not attempt more general interpretations of the folklore records he had collected, focusing instead on vivid reports from his field trips and observations of people's behaviours. He developed a distinctive writing style described as historical-ethnographic reportage.
Noteworthy are his pioneering studies on different variants of the Rzeszów folk costume (see: Strój rzeszowski. Atlas polskich strojów ludowych, vol. 5 Małopolska, part 13, Lublin 1951; Strój łańcucki. Atlas polskich strojów ludowych, vol. 5 Małopolska, part 5, Wrocław 1953). He was the first researcher to outline ethnographic regions inhabited by Lasowiacy, Rzeszowiacy, and Pogórzanie (see: Geneza regionów etnograficznych województwa rzeszowskiego, Mielec 1968).
updated: November 2014 (mkk, ab)