Saturday, November 2, 2019

The Founding of AFU

From two book shelves in a small one room apartment to 14 premises housing more than 2,5 Swedish kilometer shelf capacity. This is the ”physical” history of AFU from a bird´s-eye view. But AFU is essentially an idea and a vision. In several blog posts I have documented the archive history and development in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. Blog readers may find it of interest to know how the idea and vision was born and formulated during the first years of our existence.

Already in 1969 my old friend and AFU colleague Anders Liljegren began taking an active interest in ufology, placing an ad in the local paper, looking for UFO-interested people. A small informal group was formed, When the national organization UFO-Sweden was founded in 1970 the group joined UFO-Sweden and was renamed Norrköpings UFO-förening (Norrköping UFO Society). They rented a small habitat not far from the present AFU premises.

Anders Liljegren, October 1971 at the premises of Norrköpings UFO-förening

As a young teenager I had read all the UFO books found in my parents library and when I introduced my friend and schoolmate Kjell Jonsson to these books he immediately became intensely fascinated by the subject and entered a subscription to Flying Saucer Review. In November 1970 we contacted the newly formed UFO-Sweden, which resulted in our founding a local group, UFO-Södertälje, later Södertälje UFO-Center. I met Anders Liljegren for the first time in January 1971, when entering senior high school studies at Norrköping. We had both of us founded local UFO-Sweden groups and soon became good friends. Already from the beginning Anders was the down-to-earth practical realist in UFO matters and when I now and then went too far out on a limb in the UFO and paranormal world, Anders pulled me back with his critical common sense.

Kjell Jonsson, August 29, 1971. Notice the UFO button

During the first years of the 1970s the UFO-Sweden ideology was heavily influenced by a combination of Donald Keyhoe ETI theory and new age philosophy. One of the objectives was to achieve an ”official recognition of the extraterrestrial origin of the flying saucers”. On the positive side, UFO-Sweden began the first organized field investigations of UFO incidents and many serious research oriented ufologists became active members. Anders, Kjell and I participated in the UFO-Sweden convention 1971. A problem was the often rather absurd statements in media by the first chairman Carl-Axel Jonzon. In 1968 and 1970 there had been two presumed landing cases in different parts of Sweden. By a funny coincidence both places were called Anten och both of the observers were named Johansson. When Carl-Axel Jonzon was interviewed on TV during the 1971 UFO-Sweden convention he claimed the organization was expecting a third landing at another Enebacken and that the UFO witness would probably again be called Johansson. Statements like these were detrimental to the public image of Swedish ufology. 

In the middle from left Kjell Jonsson, Håkan Blomqvist, Anders Liljegren together at the 1971 UFO-Sweden annual meeting

In spite of these problems Anders, Kjell and I continued our active work within UFO-Sweden. In August 1972 Anders started publishing a small newsletter Ufologen (The Ufologist) concentrating on UFO reports. But in the Autumn of 1972 we became more and more discontented with the ideology and public image of UFO-Sweden. The organization was at this time very much information, or ET missionary, oriented with the idea to build a large public organization lobbying the authorities to start UFO research. In an effort to create a more serious national organization Anders and I formulated a ”Suggestion for a Democratic re-organization of UFO-Sweden”, which emphasized more and better research. But this idea was more or less rejected.

Beginning in February 1973 Anders, Kjell and I started to seriously consider the possibility of leaving UFO-Sweden and creating a new research oriented group. Not an easy decision as Anders headed the reporting center in UFO-Sweden and I information and PR. We had by this time been very much influenced by the writings of Jacques Vallee, John Keel and Allen Hynek. On March 2, 1973 Anders phoned me and after some discussion we decided to officially leave UFO-Sweden on the coming planning conference March 17, 1973.

Our public defection during the conference on March 17 naturally resulted in much confusion and speculation. We wanted to be entirely honest and open to all members regarding the reasons for our decision and distributed a letter to all groups: ”Why we leave the UFO-Sweden work”. In this paper we tried to explain our research ideology: ”It is a paradox that we try to inform (i.e. convince) the public about the existence of a phenomenon whos nature we hardly try to investigate in depth”. In this paper wee also published a quote from Jacques Vallee´s Passport To Magonia.

March 17, 1973 became the official founding day for what we decided to call Arbetsgruppen för ufologi – AFU, (The Working Team for Ufology). It was an informal group consisting of three members, Håkan Blomqvist, Anders Liljegren and Kjell Jonsson. The newsletter Ufologen now became our official AFU publication. All three of us were very bookish and avid readers. Especially Kjell Jonsson who already in 1972 started collecting UFO books and creating a lending library as a service to the UFO-Sweden field investigators. This library, in 1973, became instead a AFU project.

During 1973-1974 we were rather indecisive regarding what should be our main focus and what direction AFU should take. Our aim was building a foundation for serious UFO research in Sweden but in 1974 both Anders Liljegren and I were occupied with personal and practical problems. I suffered from a severe depression during the Spring and Summer 1974. Our magazine Ufologen was folded in the Spring of 1974 and in the Autumn I moved to Stockholm and began my studies at Stockholms University. Both Anders Liljegren and I had now become rather passive members of AFU. 

The AFU gang 1975

In the Spring of 1974 Lennart Johansson, Stockholms UFO-Center, donated his entire collection, around 200 UFO books, to AFU. The collection became an important part of the AFU library. In an interview I did with Kjell Jonsson in 1977 he said that this donation further inspired him to continue building a UFO library. As he planned to become a librarian he felt that it was in this way he could benefit ufology. The library was housed in his very small, one room apartment and it only consisted of two bookshelves.

The practical work of keeping AFU alive now rested on the shoulders of Kjell Jonsson. In a letter written September 30, 1974 to a Swedish ufologist  he tried to explain the situation: "I am now the only active AFU representative. AFU has closed down all former activities, our magazine Ufologen and field investigations. Instead I am presently engaged in planning a lending library of books and magazines and will also serve ufologists with copies of magazine articles." This was the beginning of what later became the large archive and library. So the credit for the library and archive idea should go to Kjell Jonsson who kept AFU going during the first years.

In the beginning of 1975 my social and personal life had stabilized and the UFO interest and activity returned. In March 1975 I started publishing AFU Nyhetsblad (AFU Newsletter), a venture that Anders Liljegren continued from 1976 until 2008, all in all 52 issues. From a very humble beginning the library continued to grow  but between 1974-1980 it was mainly a one man enterprice handled by Kjell Jonsson. With his gallant idealism he spent a lot of time and his own money to run AFU. 

Kjell Jonsson and the two book shelves, August 1977

By 1980, as several ufologists began donating books and magazines to our library, the international contacts increased and because of our new name – Archives for UFO Research -  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.