Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Conference: Lviv Meeting for Museum Workers with Judaica Collections

Lviv, Ukraine. Judaica items in the collection of the Ethnographic Museum. Photos: Samuel D. Gruber, 2000.

Conference: Lviv Meeting for Museum Workers with Judaica Collections
by Samuel D. Gruber

The Faina Petriakova Center in Lviv (UKraine) will host a one-day conference on November 23rd dedicated to the methodology of the display of Judaica,Jewish history, culture and religion in the museums of Ukraine. The organizers tell me the 45 museum workers
from different cities will participate, and probably 10-15 local professionals from L'viv.

The conference comes at at time when there is growing talk, though still few resources, of establishing Jewish exhibitions and museums in several cities. At present, however, most Judaica collections in Ukraine remain in storage or in exhibitions hardly changed since the fall of Communism.

This conference is an important step in the development of the professional network of Judaica curators in Ukraine, and also an important opportunity to develop standards for information, conservation, interpretation and exhibition of Jewish history and art. It will also be important for this group to establish ongoing relations with Jewish museum professional groups elsewhere in Europe, Israel and the United States.

The language of the conference is Ukrainian, though special arrangement can be made for foreign museum professionals interested in participating. For more information contact Meylach Sheychet at

The scheduling of the conference is at the same time as the annual meeting of the Association of European Jewish Museums. While at present there is no overlap between the participants in these event, though I hope in the future there will be an opportunity for the two conferences and their sponsors to connect.

The Faina Petrakova Center is named after art historian Faina Petriakova, former Lviv curator, who made known to the world the Judaica collection at the Ethnographic Museum in Lviv. I remember well Faina's tenacity in arranging my viewing of the collection at the Museum, against the wishes of the then-director, during my first visit to Lviv.

In 2004, as part of the discussion about founding the Center, I wrote "Faina’s efforts were recognized internationally, but her efforts and expertise were largely thwarted locally within the local museum system. This situation was just beginning to change at the time of her death. It is important to build upon Faina’s achievements, and the establishment of the Research Center as a central coordinating point for activity in the realm of Jewish heritage in the L’viv area is a crucial step. Similar efforts have taken place in other countries where established museums, university departments or Jewish communities themselves, have taken the lead. Unfortunately, this had not been the case in Ukraine in general, and certainly not in L’viv or elsewhere in Western Ukraine, once a thriving center of Jewish Europe."

The Center's organization of this conference continues Faina's legacy. I can foresee several immediately results of this meeting - including the establishment of a network connected by email, and a compilation of a (at least briefly) descriptive list Judaica collections and exhibitions in Ukraine.

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