SOMERSET, N.J. – Preserving and making accessible the rich collections of Ukrainian American archives and museum collections was the focus of a three-day conference titled “Conservation and Preservation” held by the Ukrainian Heritage Consortium of North America (UHCNA) that took place October 27-29. The conference provided a unique opportunity for member organizations to get exposure to professional-level museum, archive and library procedures.
This year’s biennial conference was co-hosted by the Ukrainian History and Education Center (UHEC) in Somerset, N.J., and The Ukrainian Museum in New York City. Participants who arrived in Somerset on Thursday evening were warmly greeted by Metropolitan Antony of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the U.S.A. Quoting the words of Patriarch Mstyslav, he underscored the importance of preserving and maintaining the Ukrainian heritage.
Conference planning and logistics were spearheaded by Natalia Honcharenko, director, and Michael Andrec, archivist, both of the UHEC; and Hanya Krill-Pyziur, programs and marketing coordinator, Daria Bajko, administrative director, and Maria Rewakowicz of The Ukrainian Museum.
The conference was made possible through the generous support of these donors: Self Reliance New York Federal Credit Union, Selfreliance Ukrainian American Federal Credit Union (Chicago/New Jersey), SUMA Federal Credit Union (Yonkers, N.Y.), Ukrainian National Federal Credit Union (New York), and Meest-America Inc. (Port Reading, N.J.).
On Friday morning the group traveled from Somerset to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art to visit the Antonio Ratti Textile Center for a behind-the-scenes look. The visit was arranged by Olha Yarema-Wynar, associate conservator at the Met, who is responsible for textile conservation. Guided by Alexandra Barlow, assistant conservator, and Isabel Kim, collections specialist, they toured the center’s storage facility and textile conservation laboratory and were able to observe several conservators at work.
Before proceeding to The Ukrainian Museum, the group stopped briefly to visit the nearby Ukrainian Institute of America.
The afternoon was spent at The Ukrainian Museum, where the group viewed a current exhibit of Bohdan Borzemsky’s artworks and the folk costume exhibit being prepared for opening day (November 12 for the public). Maria Shust, the museum’s director and Lubow Wolynetz, folk art curator, provided detailed overviews of both exhibitions and led a tour of the museum’s storage facility.
In the lower gallery, attendees heard two interesting presentations by guest conservators. Erin Toomey, senior conservator of the Art Conservation Group, spoke of “The March of Time: Breaks, Floods and Plain Old Bad Conservation,” discussing how knowledge of art and science contribute to the survival of culturally important objects. Yuri Yanchyshyn, principal and senior conservator, Period Furniture Conservation, offered “One Conservator’s Approach to Assessing the Condition of an Art Object” – an integral aspect of institutional collections either at the time of acquisition, or periodic review.
The day’s activities concluded with dinner at the nearby Ukrainian Village Restaurant.
At Saturday morning’s session, Monmouth County, N.J., archivist and photographer Gary D. Saretzky offered insights into preserving family photographs, drawing upon over 40 years of experience in the field. Tim Corliss, archivist and conservator at the Rutgers University Special Collections and Archives, addressed issues in paper conservation. Michael Andrec, UHEC archivist since 2010, covered the care, maintenance and preservation of analog audio tapes.
All three well-illustrated presentations were supplemented by reading lists and extensive directories of preservation and conservation supply vendors.
After lunch at the Ukrainian Cultural Center, participants toured the center’s library and the current exhibit devoted to “Shepherding Ukrainian Orthodoxy in a New Land: The Metropolitans of the Church.” Walking through the spacious, yet uncompleted areas of the museum the center’s enormous potential could easily be envisioned. Plans include a National Famine Memorial, a permanent Holodomor Art Gallery, classrooms, conference space and exhibit areas for displaying ecclesiastical vestments, icons, crosses and liturgical vessels, kylym and art collections, as well as rare books.
The remainder of Saturday was devoted to a general meeting of consortium members. Brief activity reports were given by private collectors and representatives of the following: the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute (Cambridge, Mass.), the Ukrainian National Museum (Chicago), the Ukrainian Museum-Archives (Cleveland), the Shevchenko Scientific Society and The Ukrainian Museum (New York City), Mirko Pylyshenko’s community archive (Rochester, N.Y.), the Ukrainian Museum and Library of Stamford (Connecticut), the Library of Congress (Washington) and the Ukrainian History and Cultural Center (Somerset, N.J.). Christina and Myron Bytz of the Ukrainian Sports Museum and Hall of Fame in Whippany N.J., the newest institutional member of the Consortium, gave a lively and compelling presentation.
Participants learned of new projects, initiatives, accomplishments and challenges, as well as areas of cooperation and outreach opportunities. Commentaries and substantive discussions continued until dinner was served in the atrium of the Library. Continuity of the consortium’s gatherings was assured when Olha Aleksic of Harvard University offered to host the next conference in the fall of 2019 in Cambridge.
On Sunday, following a divine liturgy at St. Andrew Memorial Church, a small group visited the Holy Resurrection Mausoleum, the final resting place of Patriarch Mstyslav. Unable to explore the historic cemetery grounds due to the heavy rain, the group retired to the center for a hearty lunch and final a wrap-up session before bidding farewell.
For information about the Ukrainian Heritage Consortium of North America readers may visit http://www.uhcna.org/ and https://www.facebook.com/uhcna/.