We have repeated so many times that it is important to digitise our cultural heritage in order to study and to preserve it. Once digitised, you may think, it is saved forever. It has become as an immaterial asset, living its own immortal life “in the clouds”.
However, also digital models, digital reconstructions, digital data are in the end also physical, just a different physical. They are stored on tangible supports in physical locations.
And now with the Russia invading Ukraine, and bombarding civilians and cultural institutions, all the Ukraine digitised records are at serious risk.
“People forget that the internet is made up of physical things. There are physical servers that are located in the real world that need power, cooling, and maintenance” declared Quinn Dombrowski, now at Stanford University.
When she realised it, she decided to launch SUCHO i.e. Saving Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Online, together with Anna Kijas, head of the Lilly Music Library at Boston’s Tufts University, and Sebastian Majstorovic, an IT consultant for digital humanities at the Austrian Center for Digital Humanities and Cultural Heritage.
They started calling for cultural heritage professionals from all over the world – librarians, archivists, researchers, programmers, to search and re-archive Ukrainian digital content.
They are using a combination of technologies to crawl and archive sites and content, and they also offer space to all Ukrainian scholars who need storage for their research material. And there are also trying to save pictures of all Ukraine monuments in the hope to be able to reconstruct their 3D model later, if necessary.
Their work, mostly remote, as local scholars are obviously facing other and bigger challanges, is made even more difficult by the fact that not all records are available, URL are not always updated, and there are security measures taken by cultural institutions during peace times. Not to mentioned that it is often hampered also by internet outages and electricity loss.
It is not an easy endeavour but the response from the cultural heritage scholarly community was immediate and enthusiastic.
Read Chiranthi: “I am a person who works closely with Cultural Heritage metadata domains. I am familiar with metadata standards, digital cultural heritage archives, LOD and controlled vocabularies, and so on.
As a Sri Lankan who has lived through an ongoing civil war, I have seen firsthand how badly conflict affects cultural heritage”.
And so him, like thousands more, have rolled up their sleeves and went for it. There is no good news during war, but the resilience of the cultural professionals gets close to it.
To get involved with SUCHO or learn more about the initiatives’s work, visit sucho.org.