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Preserving Community Memory in the Balkans

Help us and support the Timok II workshop, bringing together archivists from around Serbia to focus on in-depth digitization work for the most endangered collections at the Zaječar regional archive SKVER.

While rich in culture and history, there is little to no formal infrastructure for  documenting regional culture in the Balkans and former Yugoslavia. Many collections are in homes, in storage, are actively destroyed, or passively abandoned. While there is little to no formal training in digitization and preservation of media and audiovisual materials available, there is a movement toward grassroots and regional preservation.

Starting in 2022, several AMIA members worked on the planning, fundraising, and teaching of a four-day intensive introductory media archiving workshop held in Zaječar, Serbia from August 22-25, 2023. This event, called Timok Digital, was organized and hosted by Zaječar regional archive SKVER, with attendees from several cultural heritage organizations in the Timok Valley Region of Serbia, including public libraries, historical museums, and the Yugoslav Film Archive.

The workshop utilized aspects of the Community Archiving Workshop model to focus on inventorying and assessing SKVER’s Mihajlo Mitrović Collection, a famous architect best known for his Belgrade Western Gate buildings. The participants were trained in identification, metadata, care and handling, and digitization of 8mm home movies, photos, slides, negatives, and audiotapes.

During an Open Doors Event at the end of the workshop, members of the public were invited to visit SKVER and see the results of the workshop. They were also invited to  bring their own personal archival items (such as 8mm movies, images, slides, etc.) which were digitized and delivered to them that night.

What’s Next

The 2023 workshop, community building, and international collaboration had a significant impact on preservation training and the development of archival networks in Timok Valley and Serbia. With this proof of concept as a foundation, SKVER and its US collaborators are developing plans to continue and expand the project.

In March 2024, SKVER was awarded support from the US State Department World Learning program as a Fulbright host for its project, Special Training in the Care and Handling of Audiovisual Formats. Fulbright Specialist Kelli Hix was partnered with SKVER to complete the project, which will focus and direct SKVER’s work over the next 1-3 years.

Through the spring of 2024 and again in August, SKVER and the specialist are
developing a strategic plan for SKVER, a collection inventory strategy, a preservation
prioritization plan, and a digitization and digital collections strategy, with a focus on complex audiovisual materials. They will also develop and deliver the curriculum for the Timok II workshop along with a cohort of volunteers, based on the biggest needs of SKVER’s collection.

Goals

  • Set up the Memory Lab in Zaječar in June. The Memory Lab Zaječar will be a media digitization station open to the public for digitizing personal media collections, based on the US model developed at DC Public Library. Participants will be invited to include their material in the SKVER archive or keep their material for their family and community.
  • Deliver Timok Digital II Workshop. Timok Digital II is a workshop to be held at the SKVER headquarters in downtown Zaječar, Serbia August 26-30, 2024. The workshop will bring in archivists from around Serbia, where there is little formal training in caring for audiovisual collections. While the first workshop acted as a kind of “bootcamp” for media collection conservation and digitization, Timok II will likely focus on in-depth digitization work for the most endangered collections. The workshop is being developed now with support from the Fulbright Specialist program.
  • Create, Design, and Print a 54 Word Serbian-English Glossary of Audiovisual Preservation Terms Using La Lotería Audiovisual Model.  La Lotería Audiovisual was first developed through AMIA support as a tool (and game) for translating audiovisual preservation terms into Spanish and encouraging cross-cultural language learning. It uses the artwork of Mexican-born filmmaker Azucena Losana to illustrate audiovisual preservation concepts. The Serbian version has been started by volunteers and needs editing and graphic design expertise to integrate the new vocabulary into the existing game. Copies will be printed and distributed.
  • Translate DC Public Library MemoryLabNetwork.org resources from English to Serbian and create an online guide for the SKVER Memory Lab. SKVER has already submitted a proposal to obtain funding for the online guide.
  • Brainstorm and develop workshops, public programs, community collaborations, resources, and exhibits.

 

How You Can Help

We’re raising funds to hold a Timok II workshop and Memory Lab Zaječar.

  • Travel, food, stipends, and lodging for four US archivists. While some of the food and lodging will be covered by the recently received Serbian Ministry of Culture grant for Timok Digital II, it won’t cover it all.
  • Audio and video digitization kits for VHS and cassette to stay with SKVER
  • Training kits and supplies for Serbian archivists

 

AMIA is the fiscal sponsor of Preserving Community Memory in the Balkans,
nurturing goodwill through professional development, networking,
and service to community and regional archives in the
Balkan Peninsula region of Southeastern Europe.