Digital Cultural Heritage Under Attack
Saving Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Online (SUCHO)
Keywords:cultural heritage, digital cultural heritage, Ukrainian culture, digital humanities, SUCHO
Cultural heritage is at the heart of Russia’s war on Ukraine, still underway five months after the invasion on February 24, 2022. Statements from the Kremlin indicate that the fundamental goal of Putin’s regime is to undermine and eliminate the distinct and distinctive Ukrainian national identity, culture, and language – three concepts that are manifested through cultural heritage. During a war with such an agenda, internationally recognized frameworks such as the 1954 Hague Convention can be subverted, turning the blue shield symbol meant to protect cultural property into a target. While practices codified by the Hague Convention provide both opportunities and challenges for physical cultural heritage in this war, the biggest challenge for preserving digital cultural heritage is the lack of precedent. Saving Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Online (SUCHO, sucho.org) began on March 1, 2022, as an emergency response effort organized by three digital humanities practitioners, and quickly grew to over 1,300 volunteers. In this brief essay, the three co-founders – Anna Kijas, Sebastian Majstorovic, and Quinn Dombrowski – reflect on the first five months of SUCHO, the differences between physical and digital cultural heritage, the urgency of preserving digital cultural heritage during a war, and the importance of these materials for the future of art history.
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