Wednesday, January 3, 2018

AFU in the 1990s

In the beginning of the 1990s the AFU board became increasingly aware of that we represented the third generation ufologists. Many investigators of the 1950s and 60s had disappeared from the scene and local groups had folded. This meant that personal and organizational UFO archives were scattered around Sweden and, in some instances, perhaps disposed. This realization initiated a concentrated effort to contact as many former ufologists as possible. An undertaking that proved very successful as almost all people contacted donated their collections of books, magazines, clippings, photos, organizational files, correspondence etc. AFU during this period developed from a simple UFO lending library to an archive institution. On November 19, 1990 the AFU board celebrated a ten year anniversary in our premises in Norrköping.

Celebration with UFO cake, November 19, 1990. From left Sven-Olov Svensson, Anders Liljegren, Clas Svahn

The national organization UFO-Sweden faced many problems towards the end of the 1980s. Local groups disappeared and there was a lack of entusiasm coupled with internal struggles between various ideological factions within the organization. This crisis reached its peak at the 1991 annual conference. Would the members vote for a science-based research organization or a New Age missionary ideology? The first option won with much support and journalist and ufologist Clas Svahn was elected the new chairman of UFO-Sweden. This was a watershed moment in Swedish UFO history as Clas Svahn now formulated the new ideological position of UFO-Sweden, labelled the Third Way Ufology: Neither naive belief nor debunking skepticism but an open mind to various theories and claims based on critical investigation and empirical data.

Clas Svahn at UFO-Sweden board meeting October 12, 1996

By 1992 AFU was so well known and established that we began receiving collections of material also from our Nordic countries. The Danish UFO organization SUFOI donated a very extensive collection of magazines. The personal and organizational files were growing fast so we understood that soon a second premises would be necessary. Our 38 square meters simply couldn´t house all incoming items. In January 1992 we found a possible solution nearby. It was still used as an archive by the real-estate company who owned the premises so we had to wait until they could find a new archive facility. But during the Spring of 1993 we could finally begin renovating the new 75 square meters and in July part of the archive was moved from the old premises. 

Working in the old premises October 10, 1992

Anders Liljegren´s lady Barbro, painting our new premises, May 10, 1993

On October 31, 1993 the new facility was celebrated with an inauguration party involving ufologists from all over Sweden who enjoyed our Russian Champagne. To cover the expenses for our new premises we succeeded in creating a pool of idealistic sponsors, donating a small sum of money each month.

Inauguration party

Our new premises, Autumn 1993

1993 proved to be a peak activity year for AFU. Between January 23 – February 28 we arranged a large UFO exhibition at the Norrköping City Museum. The exhibition, UFO – främlingar från stjärnorna? (UFOs – Strangers From The Stars?) resulted in very extensive media coverage.
In 1993 the Swedish government introduced a project called ALU, Arbetslivsutveckling, making it possible for unemployed people to work six months at organizations etc, with the salary paid by the government. In March 1993 we applied for an ALU project and had no problem getting it. This gave us the possibility of hiring unemployed ufologists or other people interested in our subject to work at AFU. The first person to be engaged was Swedish ufologist Jörgen Granlie, who for several months coded UFO reports in our database ScanCat. Between 1993-1998 some 40 people worked on ALU projects at the archive. From an international perspective this was an unique opportunity to have a staff of people working full time at a UFO organization. Unheard of as far as I know.

Viewing the UFO exhibition, February 1993

ALU staff at work, June 1994

As we now officially regarded AFU as an archive, in 1993 we became members of two Swedish archive associations, Östergötlands Arkivförbund (ÖLFA) and Folkrörelsernas Arkivförbund (FA). On October 23, 1993 The Board of Private Archives of the National Archives in Stockholm decided to grant us 6,500 SEK to pay for working material connected to our ALU projects. This was our first recognition as a serious archive institution and our first grant from the Swedish authorities. My first UFO book UFO – i myt och verklighet (UFO – in Myth and Reality) was published in December 1993, receiving favorable reviews and copies were purchased by most of the Swedish public libraries. In 1995 Clas Svahn´s thorough investigation and documentation of the Gösta Carlsson close encounter and contact case was published. Today a classic in Swedish UFO literature.

Our first international guest was Hilary Evans, who visited us in October 1996. We had many interesting discussions about UFO and paranormal phenomena. Although a skeptic regarding UFO he was very open to the idea of phenomena hitherto unknown. Hilary Evans many years later donated his entire archive to AFU and was also the donor who inspired us to change the AFU acronym to Archives for the Unexplained. In 1998 AFU was visisted by Timothy Good, who donated 12,000 SEK. A very welcome contribution.

With Hilary Evans at AFU, October 7, 1996

Hilary Evans

My AFU colleague Anders Liljegren often, in a friendly and good-natured spirit, poke fun at my historical flashbacks. Anders have dubbed me The Knight of Nostalgia. Not a bad title at all, in my view. As I often have reiterated: Without libraries and archives we have no history, only anecdotes, myths and hazy memories. Without archives and libraries serious and scientific research becomes very difficult and in some areas almost impossible. If we don´t learn from history we will continue making the same mistakes or once again trying to reinvent the wheel. AFU is our legacy to the future.