August 8, 2022
Since its launch on March 1, 2022, Saving Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Online (SUCHO) has brought together over 1,300 volunteers to create high-fidelity web archives of around 4,500 Ukrainian cultural heritage websites, amassing over 50 TB of data. These websites range from national archives to local museums, from 3D tours of churches to children’s art centers. We have identified these websites in many ways: crowdsourcing, examining DNS records for all websites registered in the Ukrainian namespace or with Ukrainian contact info, and manually walking through Google Maps for cities under attack, looking for the museum icon. As we find fewer and fewer new websites to archive, SUCHO is moving into a new phase of the project with three goals: Curate, Donate, Educate.
The web archives created by SUCHO were done quickly, using a distributed network of volunteers’ computers, individual servers, Browsertrix Cloud, and the Internet Archive. The archives are accessible from AWS Open Data and mirrored across multiple institutions in Europe and North America. To achieve our goal of digital repatriation, we need to connect these archives with the contact information for the site owners. We will also ensure the web archives have gone through a thorough quality control pass, apply some basic metadata to support findability, and establish a list of sites where SUCHO needs to periodically update the archives, in order to capture substantive new content. As a first step towards these goals, we’re migrating from the giant Google sheet that served us well in the first phase of the project to a more robust long-term option using the Open Source software Baserow. Georgii Korotkov has been leading that migration effort.
A selection of the web archived content is being curated in a gallery, “Exploring Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Online.” The purpose of this gallery is to raise awareness of Ukrainian cultural heritage, which we hope in turn will encourage visitors to donate money for the purchase of digitization equipment that is needed by Ukrainian institutions. Objects represent a range of heritage materials from institutions including (but not limited to) archives, libraries, museums, local history organizations, schools, theaters, and monasteries across Ukraine. Each object is described with Ukrainian and English metadata along with details about the institution where the object is physically housed and hosted online with the support of Wasabi. The gallery can be viewed at https://gallery.sucho.org/.
Ukrainian war memes are an important born-digital element of contemporary culture. They are disseminated mainly through social media and transmit very powerful war-related messages in a playful manner. Because memes are strongly rooted in current events and ideas, their life span is very short and if not preserved, they will be lost. To preserve this cultural phenomenon SUCHO has begun building an archival collection of visual internet memes related to the Russo-Ukrainian war. The collecting is carried out by harvesting social media accounts dedicated to memes and by manual submission of individual memes via a public Google form. Each meme is described using a complex metadata structure. The collection can be previewed as an interactive “SUCHO Meme Wall”, where memes can be filtered or searched by content, language and template as well as by the names of individuals and countries mentioned. The SUCHO “meme team” is led by Anna Rakityanskaya, with Simon Wiles developing the meme wall.
Since 24 February, Ukraine has suffered extensive losses in all aspects of life, including in the cultural sector. Cultural artifacts have been destroyed along with the physical structures that house them; objects have also been removed from their locations and taken away without approval. Situation Monitoring has been transitioning from prioritizing archiving efforts to maintaining that awareness of damages and looting for the group and for the websites in our stewardship. We are also working with other groups monitoring the movement of Ukrainian cultural heritage to make sure the country’s cultural heritage is not lost to war by digital–or physical means.
At the beginning of the project, SUCHO’s focus was on publicly-available websites for Ukrainian cultural heritage institutions. Those websites depend on materials already having been digitized before the war. As noted by President of the Ukrainian Library Association Oksana Brui in a recent UNESCO meeting, only about 0.6% of the cultural heritage documents in the State Archives have been digitized to date. These institutions have more than 36 million documents of cultural heritage. More than 735,000 manuscripts, 734 incunabula, 5,300 Paleotypes and about 500,000 old prints should be the basis for the National Digital Library of Ukraine.
The urgency of digitizing cultural heritage has only grown since the war, and many institutions are beginning – or scaling up – digitization efforts. High-quality digitization depends on physical equipment, such as cameras, scanners, and computers. SUCHO is working with a number of partners to gather information about Ukrainian institutions’ needs, procure those items, and get them delivered to people who can use them.
The National Library of Sweden and the Society of Archives and Records Management in Sweden (FAI) have donated digitization equipment, such as scanners, cameras and computers that are being delivered to cultural heritage institutions in Ukraine. The Polish Institute for Cultural Heritage and the Vernadsky National Library of Ukraine are partnering with SUCHO to facilitate the shipment of equipment donations to Ukraine and help with the distribution to the requesting institutions.
And thanks to a generous donation from the Pearl Jam Vitalogy Foundation we have begun procurement for additional digitization equipment requested by Ukrainian cultural heritage institutions.
Please donate to the SUCHO equipment fund to help us purchase digitization equipment that still needs funding.
SUCHO has begun work on educational materials for our partners at Ukrainian cultural heritage institutions who have limited prior exposure to digitization tools and methods. In addition, we are building on the meme curation work to develop pedagogical materials for Ukrainian language, literature, and history classes.
While some of our partners at Ukrainian cultural heritage institutions are scaling up their existing digitization programs, other organizations are new to digitization. SUCHO volunteers are adapting open-access materials and translating them into Ukrainian, and planning on developing additional materials and workshops based on the needs of Ukrainian cultural heritage workers.
SUCHO volunteers Yuliya Ilchuk and Anna Rakityanskaya are working with SourceLab at the University of Illinois to prepare classroom materials out of memes and other materials collected by SUCHO. These pedagogical materials will be available as an open-access issue of SourceLab’s publication in the coming months.
We are seeking volunteers to help with very specific tasks: meme gallery curation, gallery metadata curation, Internet Archive metadata curation, and quality control of web archived content. You can view additional requirements for each task and submit this form if you’d like to volunteer: https://forms.gle/uWVUW5oMLFkkAbXv7.