Library News: Ukrainian Materials More Accessible and Better Preserved

September 12, 2016
Kobzar', Taras Shevchenko, 1840

Kobzar', Taras Shevchenko, 1840Harvard University’s library system holds the largest Ukrainian collection outside of Eastern Europe. While the materials on hand are already an invaluable resource, any good library continues to develop its collections and work towards making them more available to researchers and scholars.

Within the 2016 fiscal year, the library completed three digitization projects on Ukrainian materials. To create digital collections from physical materials, the documents must be reviewed by experts to ensure the process will not pose danger to their condition, and then undergo appropriate treatment that stabilizes them for digitization. During the process, the materials are catalogued in HOLLIS.

“In many cases, the digitization of these items serves a dual purpose: to preserve fragile materials and to provide access to these materials to students, faculty, and researchers in various areas of Ukrainian Studies,” explained Olha Aleksic, librarian and archivist at HURI and Widener Library.

Previously, the library digitized the Mykola Lebed Papers, making the archival materials searchable online. This year’s projects greatly broaden the Ukrainian resources that are available in a digital format.

Project 1: Ukrainian materials: Archival collections, rare books, and maps

The Ukrainian material digitization project started in 2015. It includes items not only from the Ukrainian Research Institute Library, but also from Widener Library, Houghton Library, Loeb Music Library, and the Map Collection. This project encompassed several different types of materials related to Ukrainian studies.

From HURI’s archives, the following collection are now fully digitized and available on HOLLIS through the Digital Repository Service (DRS):

● Jan Tokarzewski-Karaszewicz Papers
● Yaroslav J. Chyz Papers
● Stepan Dushenko Papers
● Antin Podufalyi Papers
● Stepan Vytvytskyi Papers
● Volodymyr Solowij Collection
● Czuczman Collection
● D. Hanydziuk Collection

These archival collections are an important resource for studying Ukraine’s revolutionary years, 1917 to 1921, Aleksic noted.

In addition to these materials, the project also digitized 30 rare books (such as Taras Shevchenko's Kobzar' , 1840) held by Houghton Library, 20 books held by Widener Library, and 19 books held by Loeb Music Library. Another HURI holding, 260 maps from the Bohdan & Neonila Krawciw Map Collection have also been digitized.

Project 2: Ukrainian political ephemera

The Open Your Hidden Collections Program - a Harvard Library initiative aimed at making previously inaccessible collections discoverable to patrons through technology- approved a proposal to digitize the library’s Ukrainian political ephemera and provided funding for the project. This collection includes Ukrainian political ephemera from prior to 1991, parliamentary and presidential elections ephemera from 1991-2015, and ephemera from the Euromaidan protests.

Twenty-one boxes of materials have been digitized and uploaded to DRS. From the project proposal: 

Ukrainian political ephemera is a unique collection of materials spanning the period of time from Ukraine's first post-Soviet presidential election in 1991 until the most recent presidential and parliamentary elections in 2014. In addition to election ephemera, the collection includes materials on politics in Ukraine in the late 1980s, the protest movements in the 1990s, the Orange Revolution and the Euromaidan movement, which reflect the turbulence of political transformation within Ukrainian society. The political campaign materials represent major and minor political players in Ukraine and showcase the changing political scene throughout the years. Other ephemera demonstrate the development of civic society and political activism. The total number of items exceeds 7,000 and encompasses various formats including posters, fliers, brochures, newspapers, typescript announcements, ribbons, etc.

In light of the current events in Ukraine, a number of seminars, presentations and round table discussions have been and continue to be held at Harvard focusing on these developments and their historical implications. Providing access to this collection will create additional resources in connection with this ongoing dialogue.

Project 3: Slavic poster collection

Finally, the Open Your Hidden Collection Program also supported a project to digitize the Slavic poster collection, which includes 435 Ukrainian political, social, and cultural posters. Like the other digitized collections, these are uploaded into DRS and accessible through the library catalogue (HOLLIS).

From the proposal: 

The Widener library has a unique collection of around 700 posters (a more precise number will be available only after the project is completed), from different Slavic countries, including Soviet Union, Russia, Poland, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Bulgaria and South Slavic countries. The posters represent a wide variety of subjects, from politics to sports and cultural events.

The only way for a patron to gain access to these materials is to recall those containers from HD. What makes the situation even more difficult is the fact that the collection is not adequately described: there are only very general bibliographic records for the folders, and none for individual posters. It is not known which posters are inside each container, what are their sizes and even how many posters there are. All this makes the Slavic poster collection a "hidden" collection, virtually impossible to use.

We would like to provide users with easy and complete access to these posters, and for a visual collection of this kind, online digital images are the optimal discovery tool. The Slavic division will supply each digitized poster with an individual record in Shared Shelf and those records will be available for searching in VIA and HOLLIS Plus.