Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Preservation Project for Lviv State Archive

From the Kyiv Post web site, Medieval archive in jeopardy

The Lviv State Archive contains documents dating back to the 12th century. The archive, located on the grounds of the Bernardynskiy Monastery in the western Ukrainian city’s center, houses over a million documents, including decrees, diplomas, medieval prints, maps, blueprints and dignitaries’ personal documents on 7.5 miles of shelves. But the current premises expose the fragile documents to humidity, mold, sunlight and insects.

Many records are originals from foreign sources, written in languages as diverse as Turkish, Arabic, German, French and Polish, in addition to Ukrainian.

The preservation project was launched in 2005 by the US-Ukraine Foundation, a US-based NGO that promotes democratic development, free-market reforms and human rights in Ukraine, in cooperation with the the R’fa’aye-nu Society, which has sought to retrieve and restore Jewish manuscripts in Eastern Europe with the help of Christian churches.

The completion of the so-called Lviv Archives Preservation Project is scheduled for this summer.

So far, contractors have repaired the premises’ drainage and wiring systems. Tasks such as fixing the roof, chemically treating the documents, and installing air conditioning and a fire alarm system still need to be carried out.

“This project is vital to preserving not only Ukrainian history and culture, but the histories and cultures of Belarus, the Vatican, Italy, Lithuania, Germany, Poland, Hungary, Turkey, and France that are documented in the Lviv Archives.

Comprehensively catalogued in the Archives is also the history of the Jewish community in western Ukraine,” said Foundation Vice President John A. Kun.

The most invaluable part of the archive is the so-called Department of Ancient Acts, which includes records written on elm from 1124. They were found near Moscow and trace the genealogy of several notable Ukrainian, Polish and Austrian families.

“The Lviv archive is the most ancient in Ukraine – even older than the Kyiv State Archive, where the oldest documents date back only to the 17th century,” said Olga Ginsberg, the head of the State Archives Committee. [More]

Thank goodness there is a plan in place to preserve these very rare and valuable documents. Let's hope the Preservation Project moves along swiftly and successfully.