Virtual Archive of Lithuanian Jewish Cultural Heritage is Under Way


2018 04 16


The Ministry of Culture allocated EUR 10,000 to the Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania to continue the digitization of the activities of the Institute for Jewish Research (Yidisher visnshaftlekher institut) (YIVO) archive.

Launched three years ago the ‘YIVO Vilnius Project’ is an international project, the aim of which is to preserve and, if necessary, to restore and digitize the surviving Jewish documentary heritage’. It consists of fragments of the collections saved by YIVO and preserved from destruction during the interwar period in Vilnius. Digitized books in Yiddish will be the largest archive of Jewish documentary heritage in the world.

It is planned to merge the pre-war YIVO archives of New York and Vilnius in a specialized internet portal and recreate the Mattityahu Strashun Library of Vilnius, which during the pre-war period was one of the largest libraries in Europe, in the virtual space and open its unique documentary archives to the public. The project includes about 10 thousand rare and unique publications and 1.5 million various documents. 

‘This project is important  both for the scientists and Lithuanian society’, says Ruta Pileckaitė, the Senior Advisor to the Division for Cultural Memory and Heritage Policy. ‘These documents tell us how the Jews arrived, settled and lived in our country, how they learned and jointly created it. This will make it easier to get acquainted with the multidimensional life of Lithuanian Jews, to understand their relationship with Lithuania.’

The project is conducted by YIVO Institute for Jewish Research (USA), the Lithuanian Central State Archives and Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania.

YIVO Institute was founded in 1925, in Vilnius. It contained Jewish folklore, memoirs, books and publications, Jewish community documents. The Institute was run until 1941, when the books collected in the archive were taken to Frankfurt by the Nazis. In 1946, the US Army discovered the material and moved it to New York, where YIVO Institute was already rebuilt and operating at that time.