Digital Research Infrastructure: The Cultural Heritage of Polesia

War Monument in Stara Rafalivka
War Monument in Stara Rafalivka

Dr. Svetlana Boltovska

The project "Digital Research Infrastructure: The Cultural Heritage of Polesia" is an international interdisciplinary project for the preservation of the endangered cultural heritage of Polesia, which aims to establish a digital research infrastructure for the scientific description of relevant but regionally distributed collections and stocks of Polesian culture. These should be congregated in the form of a user-oriented online platform and made available to the international scientific community and the public.

Polesia is a unique cultural landscape that is located on the territory of the Ukraine, Belarus, Poland and Russia today. Due to the cross-border spread, there is no transnational scientific institution that records, exhibits and researches the cultural heritage of this region as a whole. Although there are several museums, archives and research centers in these countries with their own collections on Polesia. However, these institutions focus almost exclusively on traditional ethnography and are not interconnected. In addition, there are several local museums and private collections in Polesia, which have no internet presence, but possess valuable objects that have never been scientifically registered and described. These small museums and private collections usually exist under very precarious conservational circumstances; their stocks are considered as very vulnerable. The cultural heritage of Polesia includes as yet unrecognized material objects, such as artifacts of pre-war local Jewish culture and Soviet monuments threatened by decay and destruction. For the structural challenges identified here, the proposed project will at least begin to offer a digital solution.

Church in Stara Rafalivka
Church in Stara Rafalivka
Church Museum in Chernobyl
Church Museum in Chernobyl

The project is divided into the following phases:

1) scientific description and networking of collections and stocks; development of a procedure for international cooperation in the field of DH Eastern and Central Europe, including a standardized metadata survey and the clarification of copyright and rights of use;

2) development and design of a digital scientific platform "The cultural heritage of Polesia" as a pilot project only for the cultural heritage of the Ukrainian Polesia;

3) testing the beta version, evaluating the results and improving the platform for sustainable operation;

4) development of a larger application for a further third-party funding (eg DFG, EU, Leibniz Association) for an extended research infrastructure "Cultural Heritage of Polesia" as a transnational project, which will then include Germany, Ukraine, Poland, Belarus and Russia, and will focus on digitalisation of the particular concentrated on valuable endangered collections and stocks.

The new platform is aimed at researchers, teachers and students of Eastern European History, European Ethnology, Slavic Studies, Art History, Oral History, Media Studies, Jewish Studies, Linguistics, Cultural Geography, Museology, Heritage Studies and Political Science as well as at media professionals and a broad public. In addition, an in-house report, a scientific essay on the project procedure as well as lectures at conferences and workshops in the field of DH - Digital Cultural Heritage and Slavic Studies are planned. This new research infrastructure should serve as a model for the development of further cultural and historical landscapes in East Central Europe.