February 10, 2017

Holocaust Memorial Museum to digitize Ukrainian Museum-Archives’ DP collection

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Holocaust Memorial Museum Collections Director Michael Grunberger (left) and Ukrainian Museum-Archives Director Andrew Fedynsky congratulate each other after signing a cooperation agreement in Washington to digitize the Cleveland-based Museum-Archives’ post-World War II collection of documents and stories about non-Jewish victims of Nazism.

Yaro Bihun

Holocaust Memorial Museum Collections Director Michael Grunberger (left) and Ukrainian Museum-Archives Director Andrew Fedynsky congratulate each other after signing a cooperation agreement in Washington to digitize the Cleveland-based Museum-Archives’ post-World War II collection of documents and stories about non-Jewish victims of Nazism.

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington and the Ukrainian Museum-Archives (UMA) of Cleveland have signed a cooperation agreement to digitize UMA’s collection of archived materials from post-World War II Displaced Persons (DP) camps.

The agreement was signed on February 6 at the Holocaust Museum in Washington by UMA Acting Director Andrew Fedynsky and USHMM Collections Director Michael Grunberger, as witnessed and applauded by representatives of their museums, the U.S. government, and Ukrainian American and other interested organizations.

Opening the event, Mr. Grunberger noted that digitalizing UMA’s collection – “one of the world’s most important collections of Ukrainian history and culture” focusing on the post World War II period – will help “ensure that our collections document the stories of non-Jewish victims of Nazi persecution as well.” And having that information digitalized will make it available “to anyone, anywhere and anytime.”

Also focusing on the importance of having this information available to all, Mr. Fedynsky stressed that it is needed by people and nations as well.

“If you don’t have a past, you don’t have a future,” he said. “That’s why we have a Holocaust Museum. That’s why we have a Ukrainian Museum-Archives – it’s to preserve the evidence of the past.”

Mr. Fedynsky noted that the Ukrainian government has already signed an agreement with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to preserve and share such historical items with the world.

Among those attending the signing ceremony were representatives of Sens. Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman, Rep. Marcy Kaptur, Orest Deychakiwsky of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, Jurij Dobczansky of the Shevchenko Scientific Society and the Library of Congress, Bohdan Kantor of the Library of Congress, who is a DP camp researcher, and Ukrainian National Information Service Director Michael Sawkiw Jr.

In May 2016, a Holocaust Museum delegation visited the UMA to assess the scope and quality of its DP camp collection, and in September it proposed this cooperative digitization project. As noted by its international outreach officer Jaime Monllor, one of the Holocaust Museum’s collection goals is documenting non-Jewish victims of persecution by the Nazis and their collaborators:

“The UMA’s collection of Ukrainian DP camp serials, of rare published victims’ memoirs and of other related personal paper collections are of great importance for, and a significant complement to, the study of the Jewish Holocaust, and we believe that to understand these events fully, this primary evidence should be preserved for future generations of scholars, students, genealogists and others.”

The actual work on the collection will be conducted by Archival Data Systems (AIS), based in Kyiv. Over the past decade, AIS has digitized more than 10 million pages of cultural-historical documents, working with institutions like Ukraine’s Central Archives, Yad Vashem in Israel, the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute, the Shevchenko Scientific Society in Lviv and many more.

AIS personnel are scheduled to come to the UMA to scan its collection this February and March.

As UMA Curator Aniza Kraus indicated in a earlier report, “We are gratified to be working with such prestigious institutions like the Holocaust Museum and Archival Information Systems. Ukraine, we know, is interested in recovering its lost history, which had been forbidden and suppressed during the Soviet era. Digitizing the UMA collections will create a significant scholarly resource to help us better understand a troubled era of European history as well as the present day.”

The Ukrainian Museum-Archives was founded in Cleveland in 1952 by post World War II DPs. It is located in the Tremont neighborhood, then the center of the Ukrainian immigrant community.

Its founders were displaced scholars who took on the mission of collecting and preserving items from Ukrainian history and culture during an era when this kind of material was being deliberately destroyed in Soviet Ukraine. Their huge collection now includes many rare and unique items.

A second generation of Ukrainian Americans took over the leadership of the UMA in the late 1980s and has continued to maintain and enhance its collection, developed exhibits and hold regular events. Much of the work is done by volunteers.

In 1991, with the break-up of the Soviet Union and the independence of Ukraine, the UMA’s collection began to attract attention from other institutions, including the Library of Congress, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Ohio State University’s Slavic Studies Department and the Academy of Sciences of Ukraine.

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