Since its launch in September 2021, Copernico has had an eventful year. The war in Ukraine has overshadowed all activities since the end of February 2022, and the team is continuously engaging with new portal content and projects. A lot has happened behind the scenes. The institutions in the Copernico network are working together on digitization and indexing. Copernico also actively involves the wider academic community. And new editorial board is responsible for the content of the magazine.
Mapping the context: the digital shift in academic communication
To celebrate the launch on 12 November 2021, Copernico organised a virtual conference entitled The Digital Shift in Academic Communication: Challenges for the research and presentation of the history of Eastern Europe . Many of the participants represented digital humanities or history, museums and other institutions of the Copernico network. Together, we shared knowledge and debated the opportunities and challenges of digital communication about Eastern Europe and its history.
Three keynotes by Stefan Schmunk, Katja Wezel, and Martina Franzen encouraged reflection on digital research infrastructures, methods, and communication. Peter Haslinger spoke on “Source criticism and cultural heritage documentation as a challenge for digital research.” Political assessments were taken into account: Frédéric Döhl presented the German Federal Government's perspective paper entitled “Cultures in Digital Transformation.” Of course, the conference included a detailed presentation of Copernico. A panel discussion with Iwona Dadej, Juhan Kreem, Hans-Christian Petersen and Maren Röger, moderated by Christian Lotz, raised the issues of social education and discourse, posed questions about the sustainability of data and how to present historical content. In summary, Peter Haslinger considered the digital as an ambivalent space that creates opportunities, knowledge transfer as a research question, and the key role of collaboration and innovative formats. See the full conference report.
Future plans: projects in the Copernico network
As an association of many institutions that maintain collections, such as museums, archives, and libraries, Copernico's partners focus on the potential of their collections. On 19 and 20 October 2021 representatives of the Copernico institutions and researchers met for an online workshop to explore the prospects for a joint project on indexing and digitization. Together, they are currently developing a project funding proposal to submit to the German Research Foundation (DFG). For those involved, it is just as important to make their own collections accessible and available to the academic community as it is to embrace new, sustainable software solutions.
Three keynote lectures by Jochen Oltmer, Jannis Panagiotidis, and Anna-Lisa Müller opened up academic perspectives on historical migration research, transformation, and material culture. Subsequently, we discussed how thinking in terms of data fields can be reconciled with self-reflection and enabling use of the data to answer future research questions that have not yet been thought of. In working groups, the participants dealt with different types of material in their collections, such as postcards, paintings, maps, objects, mixed holdings, and texts. In the plenary session, the groups discussed the features of their own collections and how this impacts on indexing and digitising them. Read the full report on the workshop.
Structural change: the editorial board
On 11 November 2021, the editorial board of Copernico’s thematic magazine was established. Historians from the relevant disciplines plan the themes and review the texts to be published in the portal. In this way, they ensure a high professional standard and take thematic control in cooperation with Copernico’s editorial team. In September 2022, the editorial board, which had previously only met online, met physically for the first time during a partner meeting at the Herder Institute. Click here to meet the editors.
Contents: topics in the magazine and on the blog
In the thematic magazine, we have published on two topics so far: music cultures and migration (hi)stories. The "Sleeps a song in all things" section of the portal on music cultures is enriched by music videos of traditional, classical, and modern pieces from the The Sounds of Bukovina project. An interview project on evocative memories of Steinort/Sztynort castle in Masuria significantly expanded our section on migration stories in the summer of 2022. The web documentaries on the Neumann Family and on Soviet-era theatre “We, too, are stepping down from our role” bring migration stories of German speakers from Eastern Europe to life through multimedia.
To introduce new themes, Copernico wrote calls for articles on Jewish Life in Eastern Europe: Past and Present and Eastern Europe: Spaces, Borders, Projections. In autumn 2022, we will publish on a new theme, Between Heaven and Solyanka: Eastern European Cuisine.
On the blog, Copernico is focusing currently on Ukraine, mainly on measures to protect cultural heritage. We will soon be extending our engagement with Ukraine to new projects, particularly on the city of Kharkiv, its history, and its present during the war.