Jonathan Brent, Executive Director and CEO of The YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, will speak to us about the Edward Blank YIVO Vilna Collections Project, an international initiative, begun in 2015, to conserve and digitize YIVO’s entire prewar library and archival collections located in New York City and Vilnius, Lithuania, and reunite them though a dedicated web portal. The project will also digitally reconstruct the historic, private Strashun Library of Vilna, one of the greatest prewar Jewish libraries of Europe In 2017 YIVO discovered more than 170,000 additional documents in Vilnius, which for over 70 years were thought to have been destroyed by the Nazis during the Holocaust. The new phase of the Project will include the digitization of these documents. The entire Vilna Collections encompass some 12,200 rare books and approximately 1.1 million original documents from the Jewish world of Eastern Europe.
The YIVO Institute for Jewish Research was founded in Vilna, Poland (now Lithuania), in 1925. During World War II, its extensive archive and library was looted by the Nazis. Much was destroyed, but soon after the war some of the materials were recovered by the U.S. Army in Germany and sent to YIVO in the United States. However, much also remained hidden in Lithuania.The Edward Blank YIVO Vilna Collections Project is a partnership between YIVO, the Lithuanian Central State Archives, the Martynas Mažydas National Library of Lithuania, and the Wroblewski Library of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences, and includes the cataloging, conservation, and digitization of documents and books in both New York and Vilnius.
Jonathan Brent is a historian, publisher, translator, writer and teacher. For eighteen years (1991-2009) he was Humanities Senior Editor then Editorial Director at Yale University Press where he established the Annals of Communism series. His books include Stalin’s Last Crime (2003); and Inside the Stalin Archives (2008). Brent has translated poems of Joseph Brodsky and Vladimir Mayakovsky and teaches history and literature at Bard College. He is currently writing a biographical study of the Russian writer, Isaac Babel, and finishing a novel.
In 2009, Brent became Executive Director and CEO of The YIVO Institute for Jewish Research where he initiated The YIVO Vilna Collection Project in 2014, an international project to conserve and digitize all of YIVO’s pre-WW II collections in New York City and Vilnius, Lithuania. In 2018, Brent initiated development of the YIVO Digital Museum of East European and Russian Jewish Life.
Brent lectures and publishes widely on Jewish, Soviet and East European history. He has made three documentaries about his work: Stalin’s Last Plot (2009); Stalin: Man of Steel (2003); and Declassified: Stalin (2006). His articles have appeared in The New York Times, Commentary, The American Scholar, The New Republic, The New Criterion, The Chronicle of Higher Education and numerous other journals and newspapers. He is now participating a documentary on the life and disappearance of Raul Wallenberg. His books have been translated into French, Swedish, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, and Polish.