Sunday, November 19, 2017

AFU in the 1980s

In several blog entries I have presented the early history of AFU during the first formative years 1973-1979. Compared with the intensive and global activities of today the 1970s was a period of slow but gradual growth of the library, coupled with much discussion of the future development of our small informal working group. In March 1979 we decided to change the acronym AFU from Arbetsgruppen för ufologi (Working group for ufology) to Arkivet för UFO-forskning (Archives for UFO Research) and we also started publishing articles in English in AFU Newsletter.

By 1980, as several ufologists began donating books and magazines to our library, the international contacts increased and because of our new name, we realized that we couldn´t just function as an informal group. So in January 1980 AFU was registred as a formal foundation with a governing board and bylaws. But our greatest problem was lack of space as the entire library was housed in Kjell Jonson´s small one room apartment in Södertälje. Anders Liljegren succeeded in finding a 38 square meters basement facility in Norrköping and on November 15, 1980 the AFU library was transported to our new premises. Norrköping was chosen as our new headquarters for practical reasons. Anders had a steady job and the rent for the facility was reasonable. With our new premises AFU entered an era of continued expansion. From now on Anders Liljegren handled the day to day activities at AFU, after work and at weekends. Ufologist Sven-Olov Svensson, who lived nearby, began taking an active part in handling book loans, which then often were sent by mail.

Anders Liljegren and Kjell Jonsson relaxing in my apartment in Sundbyberg after discussions about the future of AFU, August 18, 1980

GICOFF, Göteborgs informationscenter för UFO (Gothenburg UFO Information Center) was the first research oriented UFO organization in Sweden, founded in 1969, one year before the founding of UFO-Sweden. GICOFF was headed by Sven-Olof Fredriksson and Björn Högman and performed high quality field investigation and documentation in the 1970s. The group ceased activity in 1978 and in 1981 the GICOFF archive was donated to AFU.

Sven-Olof Fredriksson

By 1983 the library consisted of 1163 titles and the need for a specialized cataloguing system became evident. Anders Liljegren created the first version of UfoCode, later updated to the more inclusive PhenCode, the library classification system presently used by AFU.

A happy Anders Liljegren at the new AFU headquarters 1983

In May 1984 I terminated my work as librarian at Stockholm Public Library and moved to Norrköping, beginning a career as freelance journalist. We were now three active ufologists in Norrköping engaged in keeping AFU going. New board member from this year was journalist Clas Svahn, active in ufology since 1974. During the 1980s he lived with his wife in Luleå, in the northern part of Sweden so his visits to AFU was not so frequent. But we had now installed a copy machine and telephone in our facility which made communication easier.

In 1985 Anders bought the first AFU computer at a cost of incredible 50,000 SEK, a very large amount of money at that time, all from his own savings. With this computer Anders built our first database, ScanCat, with Swedish UFO reports. Statistical analysis now became much easier and an important research tool. In the Autumn of 1985 the vast archive of the publishing House Parthenon was donated to AFU, collected by a.o. Carl-Anton Mattson and me at Hälsingborg.

Proudly displaying some of the magazines at AFU 1985

1986 was in several ways a year of sadness. On February 28, 1986 Edith Nicolaisen, founder of Parthenon, died. By a strange coincidence this was the same day that Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme was assassinated in Stockholm. On April 30, 1986 our friend and AFU co-founder Kjell Jonsson died during a heavy attack of asthma. We had noticed his health becoming increasingly frail but his early death was still a chock to us. Kjell was in many respects the man who created AFU as a library and archive institution. On the positive side 1986 was the year when AFU joined UFO-Sweden as an affiliate group and could officially be recognized as the archive unit of our national organization.

Kjell Jonsson at the old AFU library in his home, August 1977

If 1986 was a year of grief, 1987 proved to be quite the opposite. In 1987 Sven-Olov Svensson made the historical decision to quit his ordinary work at a local firm and engage in full time volunteer service at the then rather small AFU office. Truly a gift from heaven for a non-profit but growing foundation. And he is still with us today.

Sven-Olov Svensson, June 1988

In 1987 Anders Liljegren and Clas Svahn had been allowed to copy the entire UFO archive at The Swedish Defence Research Institute (FOI), former name FOA. We could now create a large national UFO report archive, merging reports from FOA, GICOFF, UFO-Sweden, AFU and other Swedish sources.

Interviewing Whitley Strieber at Hotel Diplomat, Stockholm, October 11, 1988

In an earlier blog entry I have detailed the very happy ending in our efforts to save the archive of pioneer Swedish ufologist Gösta Rehn. In August 1989 Anders Liljegren and I succeeded in rescuing his entire correspondence file from being dumped in a container. This was also the year when Clas Svahn and Anders Liljegren published their groundbreaking research and documentation of the famous Domsten abduction case of December 19, 1958. After years of meticulous investigation they could prove that this classic abduction and contact claim was a hoax, inspired by the Tom Trick science fiction series published in a Swedish magazine. Their motive was simply fame and money. The Domsten study is serious research-oriented ufology at its best and a prime example of what can be achieved by having an extensive archive as a research base. 

Anders Liljegren, Åke Franzén and Sven-Olov Svensson at AFU May 30, 1989

For AFU the 1980s was a decade of consolidation and implementation of several research and documentation projects. A further development from being a simple UFO lending library to an international UFO, Fortean and paranormal archive.