Ukrainian Cultural Heritage under fire.

Ukrainian Cultural Heritage under fire.
Hilary Beaton

Ukrainian Cultural Heritage under fire.

No historical re-connection but erasure.

On April 7 at 4 am, I joined 300 library professionals in an online forum to give voice to our colleagues in Ukraine. The ZOOM call was organised by the Ukraine Libraries Association* and hosted by the University of California, Berkeley, USA. It is staggering to me that many libraries are still working on all fronts to retain services.

We listened as librarians spoke of their individual situations and of their united commitment to providing library services. This included the issuing and receiving of books and online services while battling disinformation, holding classes in emergency medical assistance, providing shelter and care units for displaced persons, looking after abandoned pets, baking bread, and making camouflage covers. And then there were those libraries running programmes for children in wartime. A sobering and courageous response to this systematic destruction of cultural heritage.

The message from our colleagues was clear, with the number of arts and cultural institutions being bombed by Russian forces; art galleries, museums, libraries, theatres, schools, and universities, and the National Library of Ukraine for Children - destroyed! This is no historical re-connection. The intent is erasure of the Ukrainian people, their culture, their literature, and their language. Obliteration of Ukraine as a free and democratic sovereign nation.

Ksenya Kiebuzinski, Slavic Resources Coordinator, and Head, Petro Jacyk Resource Centre, University of Toronto Libraries, University of Toronto joined us on the call. She described how maintaining and preserving online archives or digital objects during wartime is difficult as they rely on computers and scanners attached to cables and servers to work. Power outages can mean temporary or permanent loss of data, bombing means destruction.

She describes the process in her article The Conversation.**

Over 1,000 volunteers, in partnership with universities in Canada and the United States, are participating in the crowd-sourced project called Saving Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Online (SUCHO) to preserve and secure digitized manuscripts, music, photographs, 3D architectural models, and other publications. So far, the team has captured 15,000 files, which are accessible via the Internet Archive.

It’s hard to comprehend the thinking of the perpetrators of this crime. It’s draconian. As the International Federation of Libraries and Archives (IFLA) states: Cultural heritage belongs to all of humanity [and] appeals to libraries and librarians all over the world are being made for a ceasefire and to stand in solidarity with our colleagues in Ukraine.

* The Ukrainian Library Association, founded in 1995, is a nongovernmental professional association with individual membership. ULA represents approximately 57,000 librarians and more than 33,000 libraries across Ukraine. ULA members are employed in national, public, academic, school, and special libraries. 

**Read the original article.

Photo:  National Library for Children, Ukraine

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