SLA's Museums Group in Moscow: A Report

Special Libraries, Winter 1989 | Go to article overview

SLA's Museums Group in Moscow: A Report


SLA's Museums Group in Moscow: A Report

PRIOR to the historic Reagan-Gorbachev summit, a team of SLA members went to Moscow to study library practices in the Soviet Union. The particular emphasis of the trip, according to Dr. David R. Bender, SLA's Executive Director, was on "experiences in museum work and its research literature." Dr. Bender and Dr. Barry Hennessey of the University of New Hampshire (and, at the time, Chair of SLA's Museums, Arts and Humanities Division) put together an exchange program, which grew out of a general agreement on contacts, exchanges, and cooperation made between the United States and the USSR and signed in Geneva in 1985. The dates of the exchange were May 18-28, 1988.

Four Americans with expertise in humanities or museum library specialties were chosen to work with the Soviets, and Dr. Bender, having served as the U.S. project leader of the USSR/US museum initiative since its inception in January 1986, went as facilitator for the exchange. The others in the group were Jean Adelman, University Museum of Archaeology/Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania, a specialist in world-wide exchange arrangements for museum libraries; Clayton Kirking, Phoenix Art Museum, a leader in the Art Libraries Association; Sandra Kitt, Richard S. Perkin Library, American Museum of Natural History, a specialist in literature and artifact conservation and restoration; and Guy St. Clair, president of a management consulting firm specializing in library and archival systems, especially in humanities institutions.

American participation in the project was organized through the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX), an activity of the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS). Since last year, ACLS and the Soviet Library Council have been working together to establish a Commission on Library Cooperation, and this exchange was a first program in that work.

At the State Lenin Library, the exchange was coordinated by Mrs. Tamara Lapteva, chief of the Information Centre on Culture and the Arts in the USSR. Throughout the course of the exchange, some 45 or so Soviet library and information professionals and workers were involved in the program.

The delegation's introduction to Soviet museum librarianship was through the research library of the All-Union State Museum Amalgamation "Tretjakov Gallery," which might be compared to some of the major national galleries in the West. The museum library, with some 350,000 items, supports the research work of the museum staff. The delegation visited the library and heard a presentation about the role of the library in the creation of a comprehensive, illustrated catalog (expected to be 40 volumes). Also connected with the gallery is what seems to be the only state-of-the-art restoration and preservation laboratory in the area, which the delegates visited.

There were numerous presentations by librarians and information specialists about museum libraries in Moscow and vicinity. Among the museums visited, and for which staff had prepared special presentations for the delegation, were the Tchaikovsky State Museum and Archives at Klin, the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, the Tolstoy State Museum House and Library, the State Museum of the Peoples of the Orient, the Glinka State Museum of Musical Culture, the Zagorsk State Literacy-Historical Museum, and the State Museums of Vladimir and Suzdal (including at Suzdal a Museum of the Book which, in its completeness and the sophistication of its installation, rivaled the Museum of the Book at the State Lenin Library). In several of these museums, delegates were shown excellent exhibition installations, and the point was made that the libraries of each of these make heavy use of the Information Centre on Culture and Arts, State Lenin Library, either through direct use by the scholars, curators, and researchers or through the use of inter-library loan procedures specifically established for their support. …

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