Poster printing

Ukrainian Book and Printing Museum

On a visit to the Kyivan Monastery caves, I came across the Book and Printing Museum and paid the 20 hryvnia to walk around. Founded in the 11th century, the monastery’s premises include the Dormition Cathedral of the Kyivan Cave Monastery, catacombs where Orthodox saints are buried, and the site of Kyiv’s first printing press (which later became the site of the museum) . In the 1920s the Soviets confiscated most of the relics and antiquities and converted the buildings into museums containing anti-religious propaganda and exhibits. Then, in the 1930s, it was closed and the collections were transferred to newly built museums in Kyiv.

The Museum of Books and Printing was established in 1972, the International Year of the Book, and contains thousands of objects that trace the unique history of printing and manuscripts in Ukraine. The museum’s collection not only testifies to the distinct political, cultural and literary identity of Ukraine, distinct from that of Russia, but also helps the public to understand how long the struggle for an independent Ukraine has been waged against its oppressors. Collections include works by Ivan Fedorov, the first printer to print Cyrillic books using movable type on Ukrainian soil, as well as books printed during Alexander II’s 1876 ban on printing the Ukrainian language. The ban would be modified but not completely lifted until the establishment of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1919.

It’s impossible to know where the museum stands during the current crisis, but we know what we stand to lose.

Editor’s note: as of today, the museum’s website displays a pop-up message from its director Valentyna Bochkovska, asking for help to “protect our collections and our scholars and museum workers” and suggesting a place where donations can be made.

The The International Council of Museums also issued a statement condemning the Russian invasion and offering “all possible support to mitigate potential threats that Ukraine’s heritage may face in the uncertain days and weeks ahead.”