Pinkasim were record books of various Jewish organizations in a particular town or village. The organizations generally covered by pinkasim included prayer groups, study groups, burial societies; societies that helped the sick, synagogues, and occasionally guilds associated with synagogues. The pinkasim, usually in the form of ledger books, contained such information as membership history and the by-laws or statues of societies.
The following pinkasim from the Museum of Ethnography, St. Petersburg, were filmed in association with the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research:
The three pinkasim in this collection are among only a few of their kind surviving from Eastern Europe, making them extremely important research tools for genealogists. They contain beautiful illustrations, as well as finely-rendered calligraphy. The text is largely in Hebrew, with some sections in Yiddish.
The pinkasim were on display at the Jewish Museum in New York from the fall of 1994 to the spring of 1995, as part of an exhibit covering the treasures of the Ansky Expedition of Volhynia and Podolia regions in 1911-1914. This ethnographic expedition was funded by Baron Vladimir Guenzburg, and was overseen by the Historical-Ethnographic Society of St. Petersburg. The Historical-Ethnographic Society was founded in 1908 by members of the St. Petersburg Jewish community, including S.Z. Ansky, M.A. Ginsburg, and Simon Dubnow.
The pinkasim have also been exhibited at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Filming of the pinkasim was completed in New York in early 1995.