• Harvard University
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  • Library Notes
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  • July 2010
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  • No. 1354
Ukrainian Map Collection Now Available to Scholars Print
ukranian_maps2.jpg"Ukrainia quae et Terra Cosaccorum," by cartographer Homann, ca. 1700

Centuries of shifting borders, renaming of cities and towns by conquering armies and a lack of uniformity in place names among cartographers has made the study of the region surrounding Ukraine—including Russia, Lithuania, Crimea and the Black Sea—a unique challenge for scholars. A new resource at the Harvard Map Collection, the recently cataloged Bohdan and Neonila Krawciw Ucrainica Map Collection, is expected to shed new light on the ways the region has changed over centuries.

Made up of more than 600 maps of modern-day Ukraine, as well as Poland, Hungary, Lithuania, Russia, Crimea and the Black Sea, the collection was assembled by Ukrainian-born poet, journalist, literary critic and translator Bohdan Krawciw (1904–1975), and includes maps which date from the 1550s to the 1940s. Krawciw’s family presented to the Harvard College Library in December 2005. Cataloging of the maps was completed last month.

“It’s very exciting to have this material cataloged and available for researchers,” said Joseph Garver, interim co-head and reference librarian at Harvard Map Collection. “This collection includes maps of Ukraine, but also touches on Western Europe, Russia, the Ottoman Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and more. It’s a great boon for us, because now students, faculty and researchers are realizing we have this type of material available to them.”

The demanding task of cataloging the more than 600 maps in the collection was completed by HCL Technical Services senior cataloger Zuzana Nagy over the last several years, and required extensive research into European history, as well as familiarity with more than a half-dozen different languages.

“Cataloging this collection was both challenging and fascinating,” Nagy said. “Because these maps cover such a wide range of history, I had to work with text in Latin, French, pre- and post-revolutionary Russian and Ukrainian, English and some Hungarian.”

As territory in the region changed hands through wars and revolution, Nagy said, national borders often shifted or were contested on maps of the same era, and cities and towns were often given new names depending on who controlled the region. Even in relatively peaceful times, names were often represented differently on maps made by different cartographers.

“In this region, it’s not unheard of for a city to have four or five different names, each with different spellings, in different languages,” she said. “As a cataloger, you have to know all the names a particular city was known by, which often depended on who owned it at the time. You need to be sure that if a city is depicted scholars can find it.”

“There were cases where a map would be called a 'Complete Map of the Kingdom of Poland,' but when I examined it, it didn’t include any of present-day Poland,” Nagy said. “But the cataloging rules state you assign a subject heading to an item based on the present-day territory it depicts, so that created a dilemma in how to catalog certain items. We had to be aware not only of the history but the geopolitics in the region as well.”

Following the completion of the multi-year cataloging effort, Garver said, more than 50 of the most significant maps were selected for digitization. The digitized images of the maps are accessible to scholars worldwide through the HOLLIS catalog records.

“From a scholarly point of view, it’s exciting to see the different points of view this collection offers on Ukraine,” Garver said. “I expect researchers with any kind of interest of Ukraine are going to want to make use of this collection, because it’s one of the best collections on Ukraine in the world.”