Thursday, May 31, 2012

Academic Library of Tallinn University

It looks like there is a trend to combine the Academic Libraries that were established to support the Academy of Sciences research structure during the Soviet years, with university libraries. There is still an Estonian Academy of Sciences, but I will have to later read in depth and try to understand the complex history from 1938-now The Academic Library starts its history with 1946, when it was established for the support of the Estonian Academy of Sciences.  Over the years it acquired various older collections, such as the library from St. Olav’s church, which was founded in 1552 and the older collections from the Public Library in Tallinn, which had in turn gathered together various small old collections. In 1994 the Estonian Academic Library was no longer under the Estonian Academy of Sciences, but under the Ministry of Culture, then the Ministry of Education. In 2003 several institutions, including the Estonian Academic Library, came together to form Tallinn University basing it on Tallinn Pedagogical University and other smaller educational institutions. In 2005 the library became the Academic Library of Tallinn University.

The Academic Library of Tallinn University is one of the three or four largest libraries in Estonia, with the main collection housed at Ravala Ave. 10 and eight branches: Sports Library, Institute of Fine Arts, Estonian Institute of Humanities, Baltic Film and Media School (getting a new building), Tallinn University Law School, and two branches outside of Tallinn in Haapsalu and Rakvere. Remember that the main function of university libraries in the Baltics has been to hand out textbooks to students, and provide basic resources to support current studies, so they did not necessarily have deep historical collections. The textbooks from Tallinn (Pedagogical) University Library (founded 1919) came to the Ravala Ave. building, but when a couple of new buildings are completed on the campus this fall, the textbook distribution function will return to the campus.

The library is open to all users. Obviously the main users are students and researchers from the Institutes in the Academy, but visitors can purchase a one-day visitor card for a nominal fee. If a researcher is interested in a longer stay, they can purchase a library card and have to bring a valid ID and photo of themselves.

The two main collections that could be of interest to outside researchers are the Baltica and Rare Books Department and the Estonian Expatriate Literature Centre.

Baltica and Rare Books DepartmentThe Baltica and Rare Books Department has the oldest and rarest materials in the library, and largest collection of this nature in Tallinn. Their collection includes the St. Olav’s library, begun in 1552 as an urban public library, which was transferred to the General Estonian Public Library in 1831, and the Estonian Literary Society in 1842, which focused on Baltica, not only Estonia, but surrounding countries and books printed in the Baltic countries, in many languages including German, Russian, French and Swedish. It added the German Society in Estonia collection in 1914. Readers have told them that this is the best place to study Estonian history in a broad context. Obviously, knowledge of at least German is vital for the use of this collection.

This collection has a large collection of Baltic related materials from the 16th century until World War II. While Estonia was under Soviet power, they did not have access to publications about the Baltics outside of the Estonian publications, but are now again able to collect on Baltic themes. They receive deposit copies from Estonia (this should be explained in the National Library of Estonia entry) and purchase from outside of Estonia.

I think people in the United States can’t easily understand the concept of a national bibliography, as the U.S. is so overwhelmingly huge in the scope of its publications. But the Baltic countries are able to create close to complete bibliographies of books published in their countries and indexes to articles published in and about their countries. These tasks are usually distributed among various institutions. The Academic Library of Tallinn University is responsible for the retrospective national bibliography of Estonia. (The National Library of Estonia does the current one electronically.) They have completed entering all the books in Estonian, starting from 1525 into the National Bibliography. These national bibliographies have been published in books, ie. Estonian Book 1525-1850, ed E. Annus, Tallinn 2000. They are now working on Russian language publications 1800-1940 and other languages. They are also compiling Estica (foreign and foreign language publications about Estonia) for 1500-1940.

Katrin Kaugver & Carolina Schultz
This department is also responsible for two of the original databases out of Tallinn University. Ericus  is a database of historical Estonians going back to the 16th century. It includes birth and death dates, places, education, links to works, articles about the person and other references. Currently there are about 800 people in the database. There is not an English language interface, but this open access database is fairly straight forward – browse lists by name, institution, occupation, etc.

The second database is the Estonian Incanabula Catalogue, which described incunabula from eight collections (libraries, archives and private) in Estonia. The Baltic and Rare Book Department have 56 incunabula, the database lists over 160. All descriptions are in Estonian, but instead of searching, you can browse by author, title, publisher, binder, year of publication, etc.

About 40% of the books in the Baltic and Rare Book Department are in the union catalog ESTER. All the books in Estonian are in there, but they are working on all the other languages. These are all found in the card catalog in the reading room. They are a member of Consortium of European Research Libraries (CERL), which is concerned with old materials. All of their cataloged materials are in CERL, but only full members can see the full record, open access is to the basic record.

If a researcher needs something from the collections, they will make copy for a fee, if the material lends itself to safe scanning. They have a big scanner, but that is mostly used for newspapers, not these books. They have a virtual exhibition – Center for Rare Books that has sample pages from rare books. They do have a digitization plan for what should be digitized first, but I did not get a clear sense if they have gotten very far with their list.

Estonian Expatriate Literature Center
The Estonian Expatriate Literature Center has the most complete collection of Estonian exile literature in the world.  Its holdings amount to 37,000 volumes, including over 6300 titles of books and more than 600 titles of periodical publications issued abroad by Estonians. This is kind of a unique concept collection, and I will have to check to see if Latvia has one. I believe Lithuania does. So these are “our” books – those printed in the U.S., Canada, Australia, Sweden and elsewhere outside of Estonia by the Estonian émigré population. During the Soviet era these were kept in the “Spec fund” or special collection available only to a few with special permissions up to 1989. The books came to the Academic Library of Sciences from the Minister of Foreign Affairs and were often labeled with censorship marks (single and double for especially censored books, with inscriptions crossed out or torn out, etc.)  Though they believe they have the most complete collection, they know of over a 1000 books that were published, but they do not have. They keep five or more copies, one for archive purposes (covered in special archival paper), one back-up to archive, one for reading room. If there are more than three copies, readers are free to check them out. All the books are in ESTER. Anne Valmas , head of the Center, has published a two volume set on Estonian publications abroad from 1944-2000 (Eestlaste kirjatustegevus välismaal 1944-2000) – in Estonian with English summaries. They have also compiled books on Estonian scientists, engineers, a bibliography of literature written by Estonians in other languages, including translations, and a bibliography of memory books by Estonians abroad.

They receive 10 current Estonian newspapers from Australia, Canada (2), England, Germany, Latvia, Russia, Sweden, Ukraine and USA. Nine of the émigré newspapers are digitized from the very first number and they are working on the others. They index all the articles from current newspapers into ISE, so one has to do a search in ISE, and then can find the full text in the digitized section. The digitization of current newspapers occurs about once a year. They have indexed about 14 newspapers and journals from 1999 on into the VEART database - this does have an English language interface.

Aita Kraut & Eve Siirman
The Center has compiled a unique biographical database of outstanding Estonians outside of Estonia into the database VEPER.  This database was started from a card catalog that the Soviets kept on active exile individuals they found mentioned in newspapers, sometimes including the article about them. Now the Center looks through all the periodicals received and adds biographical and bibliographical facts of active Estonians, those that are specialists in their field  or outstanding in national activity.  Currently there are over 2500 entries, but they have material for about 10,000. Again the interfaces is in Estonian, but usable. Organizations and universities are named in the original language to avoid confusion. All references to articles and books link out to ISE and ESTER. They work in cooperation with the Estonian archives in Sweden, Canada and the United States. This is a great resource for genealogists, researches and compilers of reference publications.

Another database maintained by this Center is VEILU that lists fiction since 1944 in foreign languages by Estonian authors, including translations. Has English interface. What was especially pleasing was the fact that all of these databases are open access – available to researchers throughout the world.

My very helpful guides during this visit were:
Carolina Schultz, Subject Information Department - mathematics and natural sciences
Katrin Kaugver, Baltica and Rare Books Department
Aita Kraut, Chief bibliographer, Estonian Expatriate Literature Center
Eve Siirman- Maintains biographical database, Estonian Expatriate Literature Center

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Baltic Research Handbook Trip Summer 2012

I have been in Europe a week, but still haven’t started blogging. It has already managed to be a very busy time, and I held off because I was not sure exactly how to blog this experience. Either I divide the different aspects into my different blogs, or create one blog just for this trip. I think I will go with the existing blogs, with links to the others as needed. My last excuse is laziness, exhaustion, and the fact that I am still looking for a good working rhythm.

All I want to say in this introduction to my research trip, is I will have to warn all researchers, to contact the institutions they want to visit ahead of time, because, using that oft quoted phrase “the only constant in life is change,” I am finding major changes in the library world.  I thought that because I had three months in the Baltics, I was sure to be able to visit all the libraries in that time. Luckily I found out ahead of time that the National Library of Estonia was closing June-August for major repairs, so I was able to set up a visit in May, so that is why I am in Tallinn right now. During my first day in Latvia, a relative took me to see a friend that works in one of the University of Latvia branch libraries. Well, it turns out the main building of the University of Latvia (UL) is closed for extensive renovations, and will not be available during my stay. I also found out that the Latvian Academic Library has been incorporated into the UL library, and that they have closed their multi-story building on Lielvardes street, that housed the sciences. I will have to find out more about that. Tomorrow I am visiting the Academic Library of Tallinn University, which means the Estonian Academic Library has also been combined with a university library. The Academic Libraries are a big deal, as they supported the Academies of Sciences during the Soviet era and often had more substantial collections that the national libraries. Ialso heard one library in Tallinn was to get a new building, so the collection was dispersed, the building torn down, but money ran out and there is no new building. And this is just what I have found out in the first week. I will also have to remind readers in my handbook that Europeans take vacations seriously, and close libraries for a couple of weeks over the summer on a regular basis.

I am looking forward to an exciting summer – Tallinn & Tartu in Estonia, Helsinki, Stockholm, Marburg in Germany, Vilnius & Kaunas in Lithuania, and then as many institutions as I can possibly visit in Latvia. I figure if I learn about memory institutions* in Latvia in detail, in a language I can understand, I can ask better questions of the people I meet in the other countries. I don’t expect to ask all the right questions on these visits, but feel if I make contacts with these people, I will be able to turn to them later with questions.

I also want to apologize for not making entries for all the collections I have visited over the past year. I just haven't had time to sit down and write up even blog level overviews, plus I always like to combine them with photos. So I hope I will be more productive here and get information up on this blog about the collections I have been visiting.

*Memory institutions – new concept for me, but in encompasses libraries, archives and museums, and that seems to be the direction my research is taking me, though I am not sure how much I want to focus on museums.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Anthracite Heritage Museum, Scranton, PA

First of all, anthracite is hard coal, and eastern Pennsylvania has the largest deposit of this almost pure carbon (92-98%) coal that burns hotter and cleaner than the coal found in western PA and elsewhere. My problem is that I can be easily distracted, as so many things interest me. So I spent time learning about coal mining and the textile industry of PA, instead of interviewing the curators on the Lithuanian archives, so I missed them, as they left on other business while I was wandering around their museum.

The docent reminded me that from age 27 I lived in an apartment with a coal furnace. I now remember the coal truck and the chute as coal poured into our basement coal bin. I vaguely remember dad shoveling coal, but don't remember how often he had to tend to it. The family coal bin story was of mom finding a litter of kittens behind the coal pile.

Coal fueled the industrial revolution here in the States, running steam engines, supporting railroads and providing power inland, away from waterways. According to the film in the museum, at one time there were 180,000 miners. Originally they were from the British Isles, but soon they employed immigrants from all over Europe, including Lithuania. Lithuanians are mentioned throughout the exhibit and there was also a diary from a Lithuanian. A large Lithuanian wayside cross carved by J. Ambrozaitis and a banner from Sacred Heart Lithuanian Church is on display.

I will have to double check with the curators to see if there are updates on the library and archive collection, but it was an interesting comment from my guide that no one has yet written a book about Lithuanians in Pennsylvania. I have a book on Latvians in Michigan, but will have to check for books on Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians in the other states. (I just went through a quick WorldCat search for Estonians and only found a book on Estonians in Oregon. There is mention of them in The New Jersey Ethnic Experience and there is some information on Estonians in Canada and Australia, but that is all I found for now.)

The short film they showed in the museum was composed of archival photos, showing the story of immigrants coming in through Ellis Island, and landing in the Wilkes-Barre to Scranton area, life in the mines, how children were put to work at an early age, how women went to work in the textile mills - mostly for silk and lace. 

Working in the mines has always been and still is a dirty and dangerous job, and I am sure the early workers were paid very little and made to work long hours. So it makes sense that unionization would have happened early in the mines - i.e. United Mine Workers. As I drove through Scranton I saw a statue of John Mitchell in front of the courthouse. It turns out he was one of the great unionizers who led the Great Anthracite Coal Strike of 1902. I saw a familiar face in the display of owners, workers and unions – Mary “Mother” Jones (1830-1930). I read Mother Jones magazine regularly for quite a few years, so her photo was familiar, but I had forgotten what she had done. She had organized women and men to protest working conditions. I believe I read she thought Mitchell had given up too quickly. (I am not going to look up these facts to see that I got them right – if you are interested, look it up.)
The film brought up another interesting idea – that churches were the ones that kept ethnic communities together, provided a connection with the homeland, a social gathering space, even practical services like savings. Do the Balts not trust American banks? Everyone seems to have their own credit unions. I feel like I am gathering material for more than one book, as this relates to my own observations of the Baltic communities. The churches are one of the strongest organizations in the Latvian community. I recently made the statement that I would join the local Latvian Lutheran church (even though I don’t agree with all of its teachings) if we could have one over-arching Latvian organization in Kalamazoo, that would oversee social, cultural, educational, spiritual, supportive work of the community. I notice the combination of church, social halls and other functions in the Lithuanian centers. I applaud the idea that Washington DC has one women’s auxiliary for all the Latvian functions.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Historical Society of Pennsylvania

Many years ago I visited the Balch Institute of Ethnic Studies in Philadelphia, as it was one of two large American archives that contained Latvian materials. I remember my sense was that they didn’t have very much, and that Latvians should send their materials to the Immigration History Research Center in MN. Last spring, when I attended a conference in Philadelphia, I went looking for Balch and when I arrived at the address that was still out on the Internet, Balch was not there though maybe there was a sign that it had moved, but I didn’t have any more time to pursue it. Now, from the Lithuanian archives list I found that Balch had become part of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP).

Before visiting the HSP, I looked them up online and found a fairly extensive list of finding aids for Lithuanians and Latvians. When I visited the downtown Philadelphia building, I knew I was going to pay dearly for parking ($18 for 2 hours), so if I was really going to do research, I would again have to go searching for cheaper parking options or park outside and take public transportation into the city. I have not worked in archives to any extent, so I had forgotten all the rules and regulations. First, I had to pay $8 to use the archive for a day, then I registered and signed a consent form that I would abide by the rules – I had to lock my purse and other stuff in a locker, I could only bring in my computer and loose papers, and camera without the case. These were all checked as I left.

There were a few ways to discover what is in the collection. One is the online catalog, which I had already looked at, and could peruse at my leisure back home. Then  they had a system only available at HSP called MANX: Archival Collections of the HSP, which is an Access database that has 25 fields nicely laid out on the screen, so besides the title and description of the archival collection, you can easily find the dates of coverage, the extent of it (in linear feet, boxes, and volumes), if it has a finding aid, etc. This is where I found the most useful information. The reference person (probably not called librarians in an archive) was helpful and gave me three things to look at, a 1992 guide to the Balch Institute collections, a 2008 listing of the Balch microfilms, and a binder with a list of newspapers both processed and unprocessed. This isn’t the place to list what I found, but basically there is very little from Estonians – some newspapers and one archive. The Latvians have more newspapers and periodicals, one on microfilm, partial American Latvian Association materials (1949-96) and most importantly archives from the Latvian Ev. Lutheran Church of St. John (1893-1995.) The Lithuanians have the most with 15 reels of newspapers, more in print, some substantial individual archives, and extensive collections for the Federation of Lithuanian Women's Clubs, Lithuanian Music Hall Association (1873-1992) and the Voice of the Lithuanian Community (radio program, 1908-1992.)

I now have to write the director of the archives to find if they are still interested in accepting materials, and specifically what types of materials. I think they could also use some volunteers from each ethnic community to help process the archives, as some stated “since materials were in X language, we were unable to determine…”

Monday, February 6, 2012

Sisters of St. Casimir

I love doing this research! I spent about five hours in two wonderful Lithuanian collections in Chicago on January 30. I had driven past the building complex of the Sisters of St. Casimir on a previous trip to Chicago, and took the outside pictures. I learned that the library was overseen by Sister Theresa Papsis, and had a phone conversation with her about the library. I hadn’t set up a meeting, but lucked out that she could leave me to wander in the museum until she was able to talk to me. She is a musician, their organist, with many responsibilities, among which is taking care of the oldest Lithuanian library in the States.

The museum was in three rooms with numerous display cases of the prerequisite amber, wood carvings, straw ornaments, elaborate Easter eggs, and dolls in Lithuanian costumes. There were also plenty of variations on the intricate roadside crosses, some paintings, a couple of manikins with Lithuanian costumes, a hope chest, a large" kankles," a string instrument very similar to the Latvian “kokle.” I especially liked a long display case of stylized dolls depicting a wedding scene. The bride was all in white linen. (That sounds normal in American wedding terms, but Latvians married in their best clothes, which meant a folk costume of the region, and the region determines the colors & designs allowed.) The bridesmaids were crying, because they were losing their “sister” to another village. Behind the wedding party, musicians were playing. 

It was the third museum room I found most intriguing, as that contained the history of the Sisters of St. Casimir (SSC). St. Casimir is the patron saint of Lithuania. There was a cross made by high school students with a collage of historical photos for the 100 year celebration of the order. One case contained the artifacts of Sister Maria Kaupas, one of the founders of SSC. There was the desk of Rev. Anthony Staniukynas, who had gotten his doctorate in Jerusalem in 1900. There were other religious artifacts, sculptures of Christ, portraits, dolls in nun habits. Then there were two  large „books” of photos – one being the history of SSC, the other of all the sisters – with a little mass card for each sister that was printed when she died. I wanted to find the one for Sister Mary Perpetua Gudas, who maintained the library until she died at age 104. For the last seven years of her life she had trained Sister Theresa. When Sister Theresa joined me, I asked lots of questions trying to understand how the SSC came to be and the work to which they have committed themselves.

Rev. Anthony Kaupas grew up in Lithuania, but did not want to study in Russia or Poland, his only options at the time, so he came to America and was ordained in Detroit and given a parish in Scranton, PA. He asked his sisters to come to America to help, they did and became sisters there. They founded the SSC in 1907 in Scranton, but Rev. Anthony Staniukynas encouraged them to move to Chicago, as there were more Lithuanians there. The first half of the convent was built in 1911, with the second half completed in 1918. (The library and museum are housed in this old portion of the complex.) They started a school, later built a high school, and took over responsibility for Holy Cross Hospital in 1929. The chapel with its wondrous Italian marble and stained glass windows, was built in 1925. At one time they were also to become an orphanage, but ended up focusing on education and health, serving the local community, which has become quite needy. They hold a monthly (or weekly) food pantry pick-up for their community.

The library was begun in 1911 when the building was first built, making it the oldest Lithuanian library in the U.S. The library itself is light and cozy. It has a collection of over 4000 books, mostly in Lithuanian. They have some recent publications, but do not purchase books or actively add to the collection. There is a card catalog. One of their treasures is a collection of bound periodicals. Some go back to the late 19th century, like Apszieta that they have back from 1892. This was published in Tilze, a town in Germany, as the Russian czar did not allow Lithuanians to publish in their own language, so books and periodicals were printed in Tilze (this is now Sovetsk in the Kalingrad district of Russia, what was once East Prussia) and then smuggled across the border into Lithuania. I have been told this is such a popular historical event, that kids plays have been written about it. I have to look up details of this, as this is definitely an interesting tid-bit for my history of printing chapter. Latvians did not have this restriction, but the Latgalians did, in eastern Latvia. In my brief scan of the periodicals, it looked like most of them were from the first half of the 20th century. It may be worth my while to go back some day and make a list from their catalog.

I asked about archives and the sisters have kept a careful history of their order. These are in a separate room and are the responsibility of sister Therese Ann Banach, who has a library degree. She has started to scan some of the archives. The library itself is not automated in any way.

The future of this collection is not clear, as the order of 77 sisters have to oversee way more than they can possibly do. The school is becoming a charter school and will eventually move into the hands of the Chicago public school system. They are looking for a partner for their hospital.

I was gifted a history of the SSC and some Lithuanian chocolate, so I may have to come back and correct some of my facts here. The graciousness, knowledge and interest in the world of Sister Theresa was amazing. My utmost admiration and respect for these sisters. If I was more religious and could give up a few vices, this would be a great way to serve humanity.

Monday, September 5, 2011

American Lithuanian Archives & Libraries Conference

Lithuanian Research and Studies Center
Close to 60 people gathered in Chicago on Labor Day weekend, September 3-4, 2011 to discuss issues around the preservation of Lithuanian archives and, to a lesser degree, libraries. At least 7 of the speakers were from Lithuania, the rest of the participants were mostly from the Chicago area and Washington DC, with other key players from Putnam, CT, Baltimore, and other places.

It is a strange feeling to sit for two whole days and listen to information vital to your research in a language you don’t quite understand. I have never studied Lithuanian, just know that it is similar to Latvian, and that some words that sound like Latvian words have different meanings. Like “mokslo,” which is like “maksla” or “art” in Latvian, but means “research” in Lithuanian. Or “kambarys” – sounds like “kambaris” or “closet” in Latvian, but means “room.” It was a mental exercise to listen intently to a couple of dozen speakers at this Lithuanian archive and library conference, and see if I can get a gist of what they are saying. Often I would catch a phrase like “where the problem lies,” but then would not get the problem itself. There were certain cadences to the language that sounded familiar, especially when people started arguing. I was lucky that on the first day, before the conference started, I had talked to a musicologist Loreta, who was very willing to translate main points to me. I had the program in partial translation, so I knew who was speaking, what organization they were representing, and what their topic was supposed to be. I seemed to understand more of what was said by the émigré Lithuanians, than from the officials from Lithuania. I asked questions during the breaks and had dinner in English with two of the organizers, who helped fill in many of the gaps. On the second day I had another translator. 
Dale Lukas, Rolandas Kačinskas,
Antanas Gražulis, Robertas Vitas

This conference was organized by Dale Lukas (Lukiene), chair of the American Lithuanian Archives Committee, whom I met around 15 years ago at an AABS conference. She is also one of the people responsible for compiling an extensive list of Lithuanian Archives and Libraries in the US that I have been using as a guide to my research. Much of the information I want to put into my directory is already there. I just have a slightly different take on these collections, will be organizing the information differently, and want to visit the major collections, so I can accurately reflect what is available to researchers. Plus I am asking questions about available databases and online tools. Though she was not the first to speak, in her introductory remarks Dale talked about Lithuanian immigration history being more than 100 years old and that a lot of things have been created over those years to preserve that history, and that they need to continue to preserve it. Her goals for the conference were to get people together to talk about what can be done, what problems they face. She was also interested in making the community aware that archives need to be preserved and that the community will need to support these efforts with time and resources. Dale has also started the conversation with the archives in Lithuania and hopes that there can be an exchange of specialists and researchers, organized workshops, and common guidelines, methodologies, standards.

The conference was opened by Robertas Vitas, the chair of the Lithuanian Research and Studies Center (LRSC) and our host. The conference was held in the very comfortable café of the Center. Robert remarked that the Lithuanian nation doesn’t just exist in Lithuania, but it exists wherever there are Lithuanians that are active, where there is a Lithuanian consciousness. He believes archives and libraries too should exist wherever there are Lithuanians and argues strongly against sending everything to Lithuania, as someone had recently proposed in a letter to the newspaper Draugas. Robertas believes in the Global Nation – a concept I saw repeated throughout the conference. Rolandas Kačinskas, representing the Lithuanian embassy in the US, addressed the conference and encouraged everyone to work together.

The first presenter was Ramojus Kraujelis, Lithuania’s chief archivist. He gave an overview of Lithuanian archives, and his PowerPoint slides contained the structure of their archival system, which I will have to get and translate. I wish the wireless had worked in that room, as I could have taken phrases from his slides and put them into Google Translate and gotten a better sense of what he said. I believe his presentation will answer many of my questions and give me the structure of archives in Lithuania that I want to describe in my handbook. (I brought in my more powerful laptop on the second day and was able to connect to the wireless and do some translations.)

The next presenter was Mirga Giriuviene, the director of the American Lithuanian Cultural Archive (ALKA) in Putnam, CT that I visited in June. Even before she got the PowerPoint slides going, I could actually understand what she was talking about, as I had seen it all with my own eyes. The woman next to me claimed that this was the biggest and best Lithuanian archive. After seeing the collection in the Lithuanian Research and Studies Center the following day, I doubt ALKA is the largest, but it was definitely impressive when I visited. They are still making a decision on which cataloging system to use. I believe that Mirga was able to talk to Irene from the Balzekas Museum library that has chosen a less expensive version of the cataloging system used in Lithuanain public libraries.

Augustinas Idzelis, a historian and philosopher, placed the whole archive conversation withina historical space. He quoted Lithuanian philosopher Juozus Girnius, that has described the history of a nation as its roots, Lithuania itself being the trunk with branches all over the world. If we cut off the branches, we lose the history of Lithuanians in the U.S. I was told this was an eloquent argument against sending all materials back to Lithuania. He also spoke about the Lithuanian Research and Studies Center, its collections, programs and issues. Though I did not understand much from his presentation, I saw the extensive collections Sunday, and plan to return and get a tour in English with more detailed explanation of their work.

After lunch we heard from Dalius Žižys, the director of the Lithuania Central State Archive in Vilnius. He described their archive, and if I understood correctly, they have the historical collection from the first independence through the second independence 1918 until 1990. I will get the details later, but I assume they divide up responsibilities like they do in Latvia, with a historical collection and then the ongoing collection. I understood that they keep all their documents in a climate controlled environment and are working on digitizing the most important and most requested or useful documents. I believe I heard 700 million pages have already been scanned. (I have to find out what kind of numbers make sense to quote when talking about digitizing. I figured out that at work we just scanned about 20,000 pages for 50 years worth of the journal Reading Horizons in a few months this spring and summer – in between other projects.) They are also digitizing films, sound recordings, and photographs. Director Žižys demonstrated their database, that can be searched by topic and documents can be browsed, bringing up images of the actual document. They are still resolving security issues with this database, so it is not available online, just within the archive.

Church at the Lithuanian
Next up was Stanley Balzekas, the president of the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Cultural and I understood everything, because he spoke in English! He explained that the museum was established 45 years ago and that every museum needs a library, which is why they started collecting books and archives to support their collection. He has been on the board of the Chicago Public Library and is well connected in Chicago. He is a visionary and asks questions like what will people want 25 years from now. He encouraged giving scholarships to students studying humanities and using Lithuanian libraries and archives. He believes collections should be live and may need to specialize. He talked about getting advice from the Field Museum, so I believe the Balzekas Museum is also one of those Chicago cultural organizations that get support from the city like the Chicago Latvian Museum. There were at least three employees from the Balzekas museum at this conference – Rita Janz, the director, Irene Pumputiene, the librarian that I have met previously, and Karile Vaikute, the genealogist. I talked a bit with Karile, and she explained that her role is mainly as a link between people researching their families and Lithuania, explaining the Lithuanian language and name endings and how archives work in Lithuania. They also have a collection of obituaries from Lithuanian and American sources, as well as books about regions of Lithuania.

Vytautas Žalys, the Foreign Ministry Ambassador at Large, a role I do not quite understand, addressed the topic of Lithuanian Archives owned by other countries. I understood him to say, that the Lithuanian governmental archives were just established in 2009, though I am sure governmental materials have always been collected, maybe they became more active a few years ago. Ambassador Žalys did address an interesting question about Lithuanian archives that are scattered throughout the world because of history. Some of the oldest archives are located in Russia, because Russia governed Lithuanian lands for so many years. Some are in Germany, especially concerning the territory of Klaipeda. During wars, archives get stolen or moved, e.g. the allied powers divided documents they found in Germany, so Lithuanian documents could be anywhere.

The first day of the conference ended with a discussion about a new American Lithuanian archive and research center. Robertas Vitas gave the background and explained the proposed project. I will need to get a translation of his article in Draugas, before I dare set down any details, but this is a huge project that will need the support of the whole Lithuanian community. After the introduction by Robertas, a panel of stakeholders expressed their opinions, and as I was told later, all of them supported the idea in pricinciple, as long as funding is found for the project. The panel included Stanley Balzekas, Gediminas Deveikis from the scout archive and museum, Dalia Cidzikaite from the newspaper Draugas, Rimas Griskelis from the Lithuanian Foundation, Giedrius Subacius from the Lithuanian Studies Department at University of Illinois at Chicago, Skaiste Aniuliene, from the Lithuanian general consulate, and Vytautas Žalys, Ambassador at Large. Many other participants rose to make comments or ask questions, and my sense was that most of the concerns were about financing a project of this magnitude.

My day ended with a delightful discussion of the Lithuanian and Latvian communities in English over Chicago deep dish pizza with Robertas Vitas and Vytas Beleška. They filled in a lot of gaps on what I had not understood in the day’s proceedings and gave me some background information about the need for the new Center. I see the need and wish them the best of luck in realizing this vision.

Ramojus Kraujelis, Daiva Barzdukiene
Daiva Barzdukiene is from the Library of Congress where she acquired Lithuanian materials (among other responsibilities) before she retired. She is now working with the Lithuanian World Community to document Lithuanian archives. Her set of handouts is  very valuable, and will be even more so when I can get them translated into English. They consist of:
  • Guidelines for Lithuanian archives around the world, including what kinds of materials should be preserved
  • Detailed description of what personal documents should be kept – biographical, correspondence, memoirs, creative materials, ecnomic, etc.
  • List of institutions with archives of Lithuanians abroad
  • List of institutions in Lithuania that may be accepting archives from the emigre community in the future 
  • List of major Lithuanian libraries and museums and their specialties
  • Sample of survey questions asked of archives.
I was able to talk to Daiva before her presentation and she explained that Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas received a grant to document archives of Lithuanians that have gone abroad. They sent surveys out to 300 Lithuanian institutions and have received 30 responses from collections that have these archives and 50 institutions that report that they do not have these types of materials. They have five doctoral students who will be visiting all the larger institutions to compile this data, where the staff is too busy to do so. The plan is to put all of this information into a unified database, so if someone is researching a particular person or organization, they will be able to look up all the places that have some archival material on this person or organization. I believa Daiva will be a very important contact for me while I work on gathering information for my handbook. I was not planning on providing that level of detail – what archives are where, but I definitely want to point to any lists or databases that provide this information.

Maryte (is this like the Latvian Marite?) Patlaba talked about the oldest Lithuanian library in the U.S., the Baltimore Lithuanian House Library and Archive, established in 1908. They have about 5000 books and have revived activities after a 10 year hiatus. Someone pointed out that this has one of the best local community archives – about Lithuanians of Baltimore.  I will definitely have to visit this collection.

Gediminas Deveikis is the chair of the Lithuanian Scout Association archive & museum, which is located in the Lithuanian center in Lamont, IL. I believe this was the center I visited in 1989 and was told that this center was purchased, when a large portion of the Lithuanians moved out to the southwestern suburbs. Deveikis explained the archive was started in 1980, formally established in 1984 and in 2005 they published a catalog of the collection -  Lietuviu skautu sajunga archyvo-muziejaus katalogas. (I looked it up and the only copy in WorldCat is at the Library of Congress. They have four people working on the archive on Tuesdays and have close to 300 banker’s boxes of materials. There is a fund that supports their work, but the are running out of room and the rent has gone up too much. They would like to digitize their collection.

Vytas Beleška is the manager of the music archive at the Lithuanian Research and Studies Center (LRSC), as well as a musician himself.  He explained what was in the archive, but also talked about new technologies, the online environment, being able to transfer sound and video recordings to new digital technologies that take up little space, thus resolving many of the physical preservation issues, as well as solving the question on whether things need to be kept here or sent to Lithuania. He also talked about uses of Web 2.0 and social networking for disseminating archives, though he admitted those are labor intensive activities. He gave an example of Lithuania getting ready to host the European basketball championship. Vytas has put up on the LRSC Facebook page a video clip from 1939, where Lithuania trounced Finland. He also talked of cloud computing, storing materials on other people’s servers “in the cloud.” The one time I commented was to say that digitizing was not preserving, and that a preservation plan has to be created for migrating digitized materials to constantly new technologies.

Daiva Kapkute and Dalia Kuziniene, fellows at the Lithuanian Emigration Institute in Kaunas, spoke about their institute. (I heard about this at the conference in Germany.) „Its main purpose is to collect, study, preserve, and exhibit the archival materials that constitute the cultural, political, and scholarly heritage of the Lithuanian diaspora, embracing both organizations and individuals.” From their website. The Institute supports the Center for Lithuanian Diaspora Studies at Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas. They publish books, a journal and organize conferences, seminars and exhibits. They talked of having a single database with information about what is available in all archives, but I did not think to ask if this was the same project described by Daiva Barzdukiene. They were sitting together at one table, so I will assume that it is the same

The last session of the conference was a potpourri of U.S. Lithuanian organization archives and their activities.

Dale Lukiene from the American Lithuanian Archive committee spoke about sending  letters to 60 organizations asking about their archives and has received 3 responses so far. She also pointed out the Lithuanian World Archives list on the LRSC site.

Rimas Griškelis spoke about the Lithuanian Foundation and the issues they have with their own archives. He made the observation that documentation of their organization and others may be more in English as language skills decline. They publish a history of the foundation on major anniversaries – 10, 25, etc. They regularly support organizations such as the LRSC.

Saulius Kuprys spoke about Amerikos Lietuviu Taryba (ALT) or Lithuanian American Council, founded in 1915 and representing the interests of the Lithuanian-American community and cooperating with Latvians and Estonians. Their archival material is distributed in various places including the LRSC and Balzekas Museum, some was in Connecticut, where they had a fire. The Joint Baltic American National Committee (JBANC) archives are at the Immigration History Research Center in MN.

Skirmante Miglinas showing a 1908 newspaper
Daile Cidzikaite discussed the largest Lithuanian newspaper  Draugas that has been published for over 100 years. Lituanus printed an article about Draugas, when it had its 100th anniversary in 2009 by Danguole Kyvlis, another librarian I met some years ago. She has compiled a list of where Draugas is to be found, though it sounds like there may not be a complete set of the newspaper anywhere. The newspaper has been partially microfilmed and the Library of Congress has the largest set of these microfilms. People at Mazvydas have been indexing the paper since 1990, and the Saturday cultural supplement has been indexed since 1973. Mazvydas will be digitizing all the issues of Draugas that they have. Some of them are online at These are the kinds of things I want to clarify, so researchers know where to go.

After the conference we had the opportunity to take a tour of the various collections in the Lithuanian Research and Studies Center. I will definitely return to have a private tour and explanations in English, but it was definitely an impressive collection. They have around 115,000 books in the library, extensive archives in many different rooms, a music collection, a medical museum and archive, and museum showcases along one long corridor as well as throughout the building of crosses, amber, military gear, medals, stamps, a folk costume, crafts and much more.

I still have a lot to learn, but I am thankful I found out about this conference and was able to attend, as I now have some idea of the Lithuanian archive and library situation. They may have many issues to resolve, but I am afraid that both the Lithuanians and Estonians are way ahead of American Latvians in preserving their archives.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Baltic Conference in Münster Germany

November 19-21, 2010

This was a conference to start the discussion about networking and working together to gather information, documentation on the Baltic exile/émigré experience. Geert Franzenburg had received funding from his Lutheran diocese to call this conference together, as part of his work with the German-Latvian friendship society Draudziba. We were all very grateful to him for organizing this conference and discussion, since no one in the Baltic community has done this recently.

There was an evening presentation in German by Valters Nollendorfs, a former German literature professor from the University of Wisconsin Madison, who spent at least one year as the director of the Latvian high school in Münster in the late 1980's. He has spent the last 10 years working for the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia. His task was to present the Baltic exile experience to a German audience and to show the role they played in bringing about the new independence. He started with a very personal story of how he as a young boy stood on a ship leaving Latvia in 1944 and everyone sang the Latvian anthem, which he called one of the most non-military anthems in the world. He went on to explain how the exiles lived in Germany, organized themselves, dispersed to other countries, continued activities both cultural/educational and political, and the role they have played in rebuilding the countries after independence. (I was extremely proud of myself to have understood most of what he said, even though my German is minimal)

The next day we had eight presentations and discussions. Two museums were represented. Marianna Auliciema talked about the Latvians Abroad museum and research center, which is only three years old and has been gathering materials and Latvian stories from even as far as Brazil, but is still finalizing the purchase of a building for the museum in Liepaja. They have produced a few exhibits in other spaces, are trying to define their role in collecting archives and books, and are doing fundraising for the museum.

Valters Nollendorfs talked about the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia, which was founded soon after the independence in 2003 and is a well established fixture in the center of old Riga. Its mission is to portray the three occupations (Soviet, Nazi, and Soviet again) suffered by Latvia and Latvians from 1940-1991. The exhibit in the former Red Riflemen museum has 100,000 visitors a year, and is visited by statesmen from around the world including the emperor of Japan and Queen of England. The museum collects archival materials – documents, pictures and other unique exile materials. The plan is to expand the building and exhibit, so Nollendorfs shared these plans with us. Since Latvia is still struggling to get out of the economic crisis, funding is always a critical issue. There are plans for creating a virtual exhibit.

Maija Krūmiņa shared information about an oral history project, since life stories are a critical part of our cultural heritage and can be valuable primary sources about the Latvian experience. The Latvian National Oral History project  was established in 1992 within the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the University of Latvia. Māra Zirnīte has been working tirelessly on this for years, as has her partner in the United States – Maija Hinkle. They project has collected about 2000 interviews on tape, most have been transcribed, some published, and they are planning to digitize them in the near future.

Kaja Kumeer-Hauskanomm was the Estonian representative at this conference and is a doctoral student at Tartu University studying Estonian émigrés. Tartu University has a Center for Estonian Diaspora Studies, an interdisciplinary research unit. They organize conferences and publish books. Though they get donations of books and archives, they cannot collect a lot of material themselves and pass them on to other institutions and libraries. Kumeer-Hauskanomm is also part of the Baltic Heritage Network, formed in 2005 to share information on sources of research on Baltic peoples abroad. They organize meetings to discuss research in this area and are working on getting materials on the Web. Kumeer-Hauskanomm’s own research is about Estonian refugees 1945-52. She has found extensive archives and a database on the Estonians that went to Denmark.

Kristina Pecia is a Lithuanian student at the University of Münster, who talked about research on Lithuanian emigration. She defined four waves of emigration: 1860-1920, 1920-40, after WW II, and recent emigration. Life in exile or emigration provides a wide range of fields to study including the problems of leaving home, and the history and development of political, religious, social, professional and educational organizations. The Lithuanians have two centers for researching emigration – the Lithuanian Emigration Institute in Kaunas and the Lithuanian Institute of Culture in Germany.

Geert Franzenburg talked about pulling all of this together, continuing discussions. He is also working with the University of
Münster to catalog online the large collection of Latvian books in the Latvian Center at Muenster.

Inese Auzina Smith was unable to attend, but sent in an overview of Latvians in Britain, read by Nollendorfs. Smith referred to numerous publications about Latvians in Britain, as well as her work in the Latvian Documentation Center, which has compiled extensive archives including complete documentation of the central Latvian organization in Britain. 

I talked about my Baltic research handbook project and how it evolved from various previous projects - a list of libraries with Latvian materials (1989), the Baltic Library Directory (1993) and national bibliographies in the Baltic States (2008-10). in 2002 articles were published by others on Baltic materials in British, German and North American Libraries. Changes are occurring in libraries and archives throughout the US and elsewhere, and numerous Baltic organizations are selling their buildings and downsizing. I was very excited to be part of this conversation, to network with others interested in Baltic research.

On Sunday Karlis Kangars led a tour of Münster, which I was unable to attend, as I had yet to look through the library and archive at the Latvian Center at Münster.

The group gathered in Münster was small, but very interesting. Among the other attendees (and this is in no way a complete list, but basically those I had a chance to talk to, and took pictures of) were:

Mara Daneberga, the head of the Letonica department of the National Library of Latvia


Magdalene Huelmann, Baltic philology professor at the University of Münster 

Zuze Krēsliņa, the office manager of the Latvian Center in Münster

Hauke Siemen, student of Baltic history in Germany