Saving Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Online (SUCHO)
Saving Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Online (SUCHO) is an extraordinary initiative to safeguard the digital cultural heritage of Ukraine amidst the ongoing Russian invasion. Anna Kijas (Tufts University, US), Quinn Dombrowski (Stanford University, US) and Sebastian Majstorovic (European University Institute, Italy) launched the initiative on 1 March 2022. SUCHO quickly garnered the support of approximately 1,000 volunteers within the first week of its launch. Unlike other rapid-response projects, SUCHO stands out due to its remarkable scale and scope.
While the preservation of physical cultural heritage in Ukraine received considerable media attention, the vulnerability of digital cultural heritage became increasingly apparent. Digitised content and born-digital materials, including photographs and other files stored on servers, faced the risk of destruction or corruption during attacks or power outages. Even websites hosted outside of Ukraine were in jeopardy, if the websites owners were unable to meet their hosting expenses. Hence, the primary objective of SUCHO from the outset was to safeguard Ukraine’s digital cultural heritage, with the intention of restoring the preserved files and data to their original institutions after the war.
By June 2022, SUCHO volunteers successfully web archived over 50TB of data encompassing more than 5,000 websites. This vast collection offers a rich and diverse representation of Ukraine’s tangible and intangible cultural heritage.
The archived websites span a wide range of institutions, from local museums, music academies and theatres to monasteries, archives, libraries and programmes dedicated to children’s and local history. In addition, SUCHO curated selected materials into a publicly accessible gallery, while also amassing a collection of war-related memes enriched with metadata for future historical research.
As a grassroots effort, SUCHO relied on the dedication of volunteers and the tools developed by the open-source community. The initiative also forged critical partnerships with organisations and institutions providing technological and financial support. SUCHO also raised considerable funds to supply cultural heritage institutions in Ukraine with physical digitisation equipment, addressing the urgent need to digitise objects at risk of damage or looting. Furthermore, it facilitated the creation of training materials and compiled existing resources in Ukrainian or with Ukrainian subtitles, ensuring the effective use of digitisation equipment during emergency situations.
“Saving Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Online is a remarkable initiative that goes far beyond the usual scope of the initiators’ work. It has garnered extensive support from a large number of volunteers from across the world and demonstrates that individuals can take real steps to protect cultural heritage in a crisis situation, even from a distance”, the Awards’ Jury commented.
“Although still a relatively young project, SUCHO already represents a significant and admirable achievement in ensuring the safety of a large amount of digital cultural heritage of Ukraine. This rapid response via collective action, achieved with limited resources, sets a commendable example for future emergencies of similar nature. Theirs is a timely and innovative response to a difficult challenge. It also demonstrates the importance and power of heritage in international relations”, the Jury stated.
Contact: Sebastian Majstorovic | email@example.com | www.sucho.org