Scholars And Archivists Convene To Discuss Russian Art At Hoover Archives

Monday, March 7, 2016
Participants of the de Basily symposium view rare Russian materials from Hoover Archives

The Nicolas de Basily Room at Hoover Library & Archives
The Nicolas de Basily Room at Hoover Library & Archives
Participants of the de Basily symposium view rare Russian materials from Hoover Archives
Participants of the de Basily symposium view rare Russian materials from Hoover Archives

On March 1-2, curators, archivists, and art historians from around the nation met at Hoover Archives to discuss the preservation, curation, and exhibition of rare Russian art, with particular emphasis on Hoover Archives’ Nicolas de Basily collection. This unique art collection, featuring rare Russian eighteenth-century portraiture and miniatures, is showcased at Hoover Library & Archives in the Nicolas de Basily Room. Gifted to Hoover in 1966 by Nicolas de Basily’s widow, Lascelle de Basily, the room has for more than three decades served as a gallery as well as an elegant setting for meetings and events. Most notably Nobel Prize-winning author Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, who consulted Hoover’s holdings while writing his Red Wheel cycle of novels, used the Nicholas de Basily room for his first press conference in America.

Organized by Edward Kasinec, former curator of Slavic and East European Collections at the New York Public Library, the symposium addressed the benefits and challenges of preserving, digitizing, exhibiting, and publicizing fine art collections within the current climate of libraries, archives, and museums. After a viewing of rare materials from the Basily and other Russian collections at Hoover, participants engaged in lively discussion of the past, present, and future of such rare artifacts. Anatol Shmelev, Curator of Russian and Eurasian Collections at Hoover, opened the symposium with a historical overview of the collection, characterizing it as a memorial to a lost world. Basily, born in 1883, was a Russian diplomat best known in his role as a close advisor to Tsar Nicholas II; in March 1917, Basily drafted the abdication decree for the last Romanov tsar, and copies of all five of the drafts are in the Hoover Archives among the Basily papers. In addition to his work with the Russian imperial foreign ministry, he was a consummate collector of fine art and books, especially during the 1920s and 1930s, when the revolutionary regimes were divesting themselves of works held in the Hermitage in St. Petersburg and libraries in Soviet-controlled areas. Basily’s collection at Hoover thus includes a library that contains many rare first editions in Russian, as well as long out-of-print books on the history of Russian painting. In all, the collection is one of the most significant of the rich holdings on Russian history held in Hoover Archives.

The participants in the symposium included:

  • Susan M. Allen, director of the California Rare Book School
  • John E. Bowlt, professor of Slavic languages and literature at the University of Southern California
  • Samira Bozorgi, archivist for exhibitions at Hoover Institution Library & Archives
  • Jean M. Cannon, archivist for communications and outreach at Hoover Institution Library & Archives 
  • Elena S. Danielson, former director of Hoover Institution Library & Archives
  • Rayan Ghazal, preservation officer at Hoover Institution Library & Archives
  • Lyubov Ginzburg, member of the publications and editorial outreach division at the Department for Public Information, United Nations Headquarters
  • Michael Herrick, Russian cataloger at Hoover Institution Library & Archives
  • Edward Kasinec, research scholar and staff associate at the Harriman Institute, Columbia University
  • Asen Kirin, professor of art history at the University of Georgia’s Lamar Dodd School of Art
  • Mark Konecny, associate director and curator of the archives and library of the Institute of Modern Russian Culture at the University of Southern California
  • Carol Leadenham, head of reference services at the Hoover Institution Library & Archives
  • Nicoletta Misler, professor emerita of Russian and East European art at the Università di Napoli "L' Orientale”
  • Lisa Miller, senior archivist at the Hoover Institution Library & Archives
  • Bertrand Patenaude, research fellow at the Hoover Institution and a lecturer in history and international relations at Stanford University
  • Liladhar Pendse, librarian for the Slavic and East European Studies Collections at University of California
  • Margaret Samu, art historian at New York University, The New School, Yeshiva University, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Wendy Salmond, professor of art history in the Department of Art at Chapman University
  • Anatol Shmelev, curator of Russian and Eurasian collection at Hoover Institution Library & Archives
  • Paul Thomas, librarian at Hoover Institution Library
  • Anna Winestein, historian of art and theater, independent curator, and visiting researcher at the Center for the Study of Europe at Boston University
  • Vladimir Von Tsurikov, director of the Museum of Russian Art in Minneapolis
  • Wilfried Zeisler, scholar of French and Russian art and the curator of nineteenth-century art at the Hillwood Museum