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Memory, Mourning, and Anti-Colonial Resistance in his 19th-Century Family Photo Album

October 8, 2024 – April 5, 2025

This exhibit commemorates both the centenary of Joseph Conrad's death (1924) and the tenth anniversary of the start of Russia's war against Ukraine (2014), the place of his birth.  The cornerstone of the exhibit is one of the few personal items that the orphaned survivor of Russian imperialism brought with him when he went into permanent exile abroad:  the 19th-century family photo album that Conrad described as “the graveyard.” By focusing on Conrad’s private monument to the land and people he was forced to leave behind, this library exhibit seeks not only to educate visitors about the Polish-Ukrainian roots of his critique of 19th-century European colonialism, but also to provide the historical background necessary for understanding the present-day military conflict in Ukraine. In this sense, Joseph Conrad’s Polish-Ukrainian “Graveyard” is an exploration of the documentary role of photography, and its capacity to commemorate anti-colonial resistance, mourn personal loss, and process collective trauma, both in the present and in the past.

Event: Thanks to the generous support of the Josiah Charles Trent Memorial Foundation Endowment Fund, the exhibit opening at the Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscripts Library on October 24, 2024, will feature introductory remarks by the exhibit organizers and special guest lecture by George Z. Gasyna, Conrad Humanities Scholar, Associate Professor in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures and the Program in Comparative and World Literature at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Photographs from Joseph Conrad's family album