Rescuing Music Data: Saving Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Online (SUCHO)

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Soon after the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, it became clear to librarians, archivists, and other information professionals that the war was also a danger to digital collections stored on Ukrainian servers. Even as we wrote our blog post about projects of the Ukrainian RISM Working Group on March 2, we noticed that a couple of the library websites that we linked to were unstable and experiencing periods of outages.

A group of cultural heritage professionals led by Quinn Dombrowski (Stanford University), Anna E. Kijas (Tufts University), and Sebastian Majstorovic (Austrian Centre for Digital Humanities and Cultural Heritage) quickly came together to launch Saving Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Online (SUCHO). Since its inception at the beginning of March, SUCHO has grown to a group of over 1,200 volunteers from around the world. The volunteers use their skills in information organization, metadata, web archiving, programming, and not least of all languages to make sure that websites and online exhibits are preserved and their content, including text corpora and publications, are saved and accessible to users worldwide.

Preserving digital cultural objects takes many forms and includes using the Internet Archive to crawl Ukrainian websites and save copies of the pages, uploading documents directly to the Internet Archive’s collection (and in the meantime a dedicated collection for SUCHO has been established), using WebRecorder to capture websites with lots of images or media files or interactive elements, scraping websites using Python scripts, and working with Wikidata. Even people with only basic tech skills can do a lot with simple Internet Archive and Google Translate browser extensions.

On March 5 Anna Kijas led a data rescue session focused on music collections in Ukraine. Over 130 people signed up. After an orientation session, we were able to work asynchronously using shared spreadsheets, detailed tutorials, and a Slack channel. Thanks to RISM’s longstanding practice of documenting the locations of institutions worldwide that hold musical sources or material related to the research of music, we already knew of 12 Ukrainian libraries and archives from in we could identify digital collections to target for preservation. Other participants used their own expertise to find music ensembles and music museums that needed our attention.

These are some of the music websites and collections that have been preserved through SUCHO, in no particular order. Progress is tracked on the main SUCHO website. We are linking to the original pages, even if they are currently unresponsive, and the archived version.

Image: Cover to a collection of Ukrainian songs, Великий співаник “Червоної калини”, Lviv, 1937. Original link through the Digital library of historical and cultural heritage from the National Library of Ukraine, archived copy through the Internet Archive.

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