Thursday, June 1, 2023

The race to digitise Ukrainian cultural and historical archives

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Deep in Ukraine’s national archive, a defensive manoeuvre is quietly underway.

Under constant air sirens and power outages, experts are working round the clock to digitise the country’s most precious ancient documents and scrolls to protect them from the potential ravages of war.

“These are the treasures of the nation, these are the treasures of the Ukrainian people. And it is very important for Europe and for the whole world because a lot of information is connected with European and other countries,” said Olesia Stefanyk, director of the Central State Historical Archive of Ukraine in Lviv.

Although the western city of Lviv is far from the frontline, it is still at risk of bombardment.

This is one of the oldest archives in Eastern Europe.

In addition to making digital versions, old prints and rare artifacts have been taken from the upper floors to the storage rooms, where they have been placed in special containers.

“These are safes for storing the most valuable documents we have. These are fireproof and can withstand up to 120 degrees Celsius. Not every bank has such safes. We have moved here all the most valuable things – our parchment deeds, which are kept safe,” said Bohdana Petrashak, head of the ancient records department.

The archive was founded in 1784 under the Austria-Hungarian Empire, within the walls of a monastery.

However, the documents collected here are much older, including birth documents from the 12th century.

The ceiling of the corridors of the former monastery is still lined with 18th-century frescoes, old prints and wooden shelves.

The work at the Central State Historical Archive of Ukraine will take some time to complete.

But the archivists’ efforts are being aided by contributions of expertise and material from France, Germany and other European countries.



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