Ever since 1995, people who visit the building at Vagnera Street 4 in Riga have had access to a project that has taken Baltic German Otto Bong (b. 1918) his entire life to assemble - the Baltic Central Library. This is the largest private collection ever to have been donated to society in the history of Latvia's libraries. The collection in the BCL reflects the political, economic and cultural history, ethnography, folklore, science and culture of the Baltic region (meaning Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and Eastern Prussia). The library contains some 18,000 books, periodicals and manuscripts, as well as an archive of approximately 54,000 photographs and postcards. There are also maps and graphic collections. Art historians may well be interested in several sets of reproductions that were published abroad as well as exhibition catalogues. Of particular fascination are publications which Latvian and Estonian cultural workers presented as gifts to the Swedish art historian Tore Helge Kjellin (1885-1984), a professor at the University of Latvia. Among publications that have been difficult to find in Latvia until now, we can mention Hubertus Neuschaffer's monograph on castles and manor houses in Estonia, as well as Anton Ulbrich's book on the history of sculpture in Eastern Prussia. Interesting information about the arts in Europe can be found in the magazine Simplicissimus, in the memoirs of Riga-born editor Korfiz Holm (1872-1942) and the Estonian Baltic German graphic artist Rolf Hoerschelmann (1885-1947), and in the memoirs of the Estonian painter Eduard Ole (1898-1995), which contain vivid portraits of some Latvian artists. Several of the items in the collection testify to the collector's friendship with the Latvian painter Juris Soikans (1920-1995) and the Riga-born Estonian graphic artist Juhan Naha (1902-1982). Researchers may be interested in descriptions of the silver collection that was once housed in Riga's Blackheads House, as well as in an album which shows the interiors of a building once owned by the German social club Ressource (the building was tom down in 1938). The archives of Carl Lovis of Menar and Reinhold Guleke are of particular importance.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.