Memory of Nations - preserving witnesses´ memories

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Memory of Nations - preserving witnesses´ memories

Prague, Czech Republic
Project Stage:
Scaling
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Memory of Nations is a digital database of witnesses´ testimonies of important historical events of the 20th century, which shouldn´t be forgotten.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Memory of Nations (www.memoryofnations.eu) is a digital database of witnesses´ memories which is build by individuals, non-profit organizations and educational, governmental, contributory and other institutions from the whole Europe. We conserve and publish collections of testimonies of elderly citizens, who are unfortunately very quickly passing away. Their memories are used for the study of the modern history on the base of the most natural form – oral history methodology. We want to make accessible individual testimony of important historical events of the 20th century to researchers and general public. The more testimonies we are able to collect, the more colorful and comprehensible will be the mosaic of the last century. Through recordings and related historical materials, photos and diaries we want to get to know the substance of the non-democratic regimes of the 20th century –Nazism and Communism– and to study the related phenomena. Memory of Nations is creating a mosaic from thousands of testimonies of individuals, who lived a boundary situation and who are willing to share their memories. Therefore is the Memory of Nations a unique platform which explains the historical past, opinions and attitude of the former population to the future generations. At this moment there are more than 1,500 witnesses´ memories in the digital archive of Memory of Nations. The base of the archive is constituted by the collection of the association Post Bellum, which is created since 2001. There are recordings of memories of WW II veterans, anti-Nazi Resistance fighters, victims of Holocaust, politic prisoners, priests, dissidents etc. At the same time there are also testimonies of the officials of KGB, NKDV, StB and others. The Memory of Nations initiative is since 2008 joined by other organizations and individuals whom the whole world. Therefore is the digital archive progressively growing with testimonies of important cultural personalities, representatives of national minorities, witnesses of historical events from Slovakia, Rumania, Hungary, Baltic countries and other lands. The memories are digitalized, the texts are edited and translated from the national languages to English. Currently, there are 29 projects of Memory of Nations, some of them already finished, some of them still running.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

The historical events of the past century are unfortunately very distant to the youngest generations - therefore we are trying to preserve this history for them. As already stated, the base of our activities are the interviews with elderly citizens, who lived the cruelties of the 20the century themselves. But we don´t finish just with the interviews - our main point is to make those interviews and messages of the most wisdom ones publicly accesible. Therefore we are trying to find new ways of accesing all the generations - non-traditional exhibitions, interesting publications, interaction with people and making them part of the project etc. Already today we can say that there is no other European Internet portal which would offer such a number of witnesses and additional material on-line (recordings, videos, photos, diaries and everything else related to the particular testimony) and also with the information translated to English to make sure the possibility of access to everyone. The uniqueness of Memory of Nations consist in the possibility of online listening and downloading the entire audio recordings, transcription of interviews and additional materials. There is a possibility of e-research room free of charge, where the scholars can study and discuss the most detailed information. At the same time, the portal is very exceptional due to its international scope and its worldwide ambitions. Memory of Nations allows easy comparison thanks to the search categorization according to important anniversaries and epochs of 20th century and witnesses’ categories. All these factors (multilinguality, clear categorization, free online access to data, amount of materials) make Memory of Nations really unique.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

We work with the interview with witnesses as the base for further development of projects. EXHIBITIONS: in 2012 we built a copy of concentration camp in the center of Prague, the visitors were hearing the testimonies of the year 1942 and the events related to the assasination of Reinhard Heydrich. The attendance was 45.000 people in 5 weeks. PUBLICATIONS: on the base of the witnesses´ memories we published a comics book - 13 stories, drawn by 13 comics artists. There were more than 10.000 exemplars sold. APPLICATION: in February 2013 we launched an application for smartphones, which accesses the memories of the elderly citizens to a wide public. The Memory of Nations methodology is also different in comparison with other oral history projects - we are trying to build a strong feeling of togetherness with the witness, which in many times leads to a real intergenerational friendship. The "collectors" (people, who "collect" the interviews) come to the witnesses´ home 2 or 3 times, to reach the life story of the witness in its full breadth. The witnesses´ are sometimes telling us the stories which they kept for themselves in secret for their whole life...
Sustainability

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

In the Czech Republic, the Memory of Nations is definitely the most popular history portal. There are other institutions working with oral history background, but just in a very scholarly way. The main contribution of Memory of Nations is the contact to (on only) the youngest generations and bringing the witnesses´ testimonies to the wide public.
About You
About You
First Name

Eva

Last Name

Kubatova

Implementer(s) and cooperation partners
Name

Post Bellum

Type

Non‐profit/NGO/citizen sector organization

Country where main implementer is located

, PR, Prague

How long has the main implementer been operating?

More than 5 years

Please provide a short description of the main implementer.

Post Bellum is an NGO whose main goal is the oral-history project Memory of Nations. Together with the Czech Radio and the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes was in 2008 founded the platform of Memory of Nations, with the aim to preserve the testimonies of witnesses´of the terrors of the 20th century. The project aims to present those testimonies also to the youngest generations through innovative ways.

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Cooperation partner
Name

Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes

Type

Public body

Website
How does this cooperation partner support the initiative? What competencies and resources does this partner bring to the initiative?

The Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes was founded in 2007 together with the Security Services Archive. It studies the epoch of non-democracy (nazism, communism) - until the Velvet Revolution in 1989. The Institute provides to Memory of Nations the historical base and archival material.

Cooperation partner
Name

Czech Radio

Type

Public body

Website
How does this cooperation partner support the initiative? Which competencies and resources does this partner bring to the initiative?

The Czech Radio is the biggest and the most important Czech radio-broadcaster. In 2008 the Czech Radio became one of the founders of the Memory of Nations platform. Nowadays, it provides technical support to the project, together with space for a big amount of data within the platform.

Cooperation partner
Name
Type

Please select

Website
How does this cooperation partner support the initiative? Which competencies and resources does this partner bring to the initiative?
Cooperation partner
Name
Type

Please select

Website
How does this cooperation partner support the initiative? Which competencies and resources does this partner bring to the initiative?
Problem and solution
Which of these fields of Active and Healthy Ageing are addressed by your initiative?

Social inclusion (intergenerational practice, work and volunteering).

If none of the above, answer here:
Please describe if and how your stakeholders (cooperation partners, funders, users, etc.) have been participating in defining the problem and developing the solution.

Memory of Nations was created in 2008 by three Czech institutions: non-governmental organization Post Bellum, Czech Radio and Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes. Post Bellum is an association of journalists and historians who are building a collection of testimonies already since 2001. Czech Radio is an important public radio with a wide audio archive and technical equipment. Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes is an authority dealing with research of the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century. Those three institutions created a team of specialists, who prepared and got to work an application, which was officially launched on 28th October 2008 (90 years anniversary of foundation of Czechoslovakia).

On the Memory of Nations plaform cooperate also different Czech and foreign institutions and NGO´s, mainly within a grant project focused on a specific topic (e.g. the Embassy of the United States in Prague is the financial partner for the project of Liberation of the Western-Bohemia by the U.S. Army in 1945; the association of Boy Scouts is recording interviews with elderly Scouts etc.). All the projects are to see at: http://www.pametnaroda.cz/project

Has your solution been tested in trials, experimentations, or pilot projects? If yes, please describe the process and outcome.

The recording of the memories began in 2001, when a group of friends around actual director Mikulas Kroupa, decided to preserve those testimonies. Until 2008 it was unofficial, until the Memory of Nations platform was founded. That can be considered as a pilot project, which afterwards served as the base of the recently founded platform.
There was no other trial.

How long has your solution been in operation?

for more than 5 years

Please select the relationship between your solution and related solutions currently established in our society. Is your solution…

substitutive (your solutions is substituting existing solutions because they do not meet needs or solve the problem appropriately)

What barriers might hinder the success of your initiative? How do you plan to overcome them?

The biggest problem within such a big running project is the incessant need of seeking for fundraising - the team of collectors, coordinators and cooperators is quickly increasing. The second, and maybe even bigger problem is, that the witnesses are quickly passing away, so our work is getting quite urgent at this moment. We wish sometimes we could stop the time to be able to interview all the elderly people, who are willing to leave their testimony to the further generations.

Organization and funding
Regularly paid employees

10

Volunteers

iregullarly - depending on project activities (between 3 and 30 volunteers)

Trainees
External advisers and experts

iregullarly - mainly historians or in other case technical advisers (in case of development e.g. the application for smartphones

Others (please specify)

80 "collectors" and regional coordinators - people who work with the witnesses and "collect" their memories.

What are the specific professional backgrounds and competencies your team brings to the initiative?

The main part of the Memory of Nations cooperators are people with historical university background. Some of the regional project coordinators are people with pedagogical education. In the team, there are people experienced in event management, and also creative individuals, who are constantly working on moving the project forward and creating new non-traditional ways of presenting the history to the wide public.

Please describe your management or coordination structure in the initiative.

The management consists in the director of NGO Post Bellum, Mr. Mikulas Kroupa, and the Chief operating director, Mr. Jan Poloucek. The management of the two resting institution (Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes and Czech Radio) cooperates very narrowly with the management of Post Bellum, when creating new outputs of the Memory of Nations project.

Please provide the total yearly budget in Euro that your initiative spends on implementing the solution.

400.000 EUR

National public funding

0%

European Union public funding

30%

Economic return from own products/services

0%

Foundations and philanthropy capital

5%

Single donations from private individuals

35%

Donations from private companies

30%

Crowdfunding platforms

0%

Participation fees

0%

Other (please specify)

0%

Target group, scale and impact
Which target group(s) do you want to reach with your solution?

The main target group is the wide public, which is interested in history. We are focused mainly on the youngest generations (teenagers and people between 20-35 years old). The main part of our supporters are people between 25-50 years old.

Please estimate the number of persons within your target group (users, clients, etc.) that you currently reach directly with your solution.

2.500.000

In which local/regional/national area(s) is the solution currently implemented?

Central Europe (Czech Republic + Visegrad lands), USA, Australia, Eastern Europe

What is the impact on your target group (users, clients) you want to generate?

Through the witnesses´ testimonies we want to point out the social need of intergenerational dialogue, togehter with a deeper feeling of our common historical past. As already stated, the different innovative methods of presenting those memories (Memory of Nations Award, comics book, non-traditional exhibition, application for smartphones etc.) we are trying to involve more and more wider public. Therefore we focus on different target groups, mainly through different topics of interviews.

What is the wider impact on society you want to generate?

There is a strong lack of identification with our historical past - the young generations, who were born after the Velvet Revolution in 1989 are not percieving the totalitarian past as something what could return to happen. But we feel a big need of informing the society about the dangers of any way of totalitarianism, and this warning we base on the personal testimonies of the witnesses of the real totalitarian practices in the past.

What are the impacts on your target group you already achieved?

There are more than 700 active members of the Memory of Nations Club of Friends, who are participating on different activities of Memory of Nations (debate talks with witnesses, excursions to the places of historical memory, cultural events...).

Memory of Nations has currently almost 4.000 Facebook "likes".

The Memory of Nations platform and the developed projects already won many social awards.

But the best way how to recognize the achieved impact is, that the witnesses have a strong feeling of unity with us and they are happy that their life stories will not be forgotten.

How has the impact of your initiative been assessed?

Experience-based self-assessment (you assessed the impacts based on your experiences with the target group), Feedback-based self-assessment (you assessed the impacts based on feedback from the target group without using specific methods), External evaluation of impacts based on quantitative methods (quantitative measurement of impact indicators).

Public information and strategy
What information on your initiative is publicly available?

Mission and strategy, Organisational structure, Information on team members, Evaluation report, Financial report, Activity report, Working method and 'theory of change'.

Please indicate webpage or contact for obtaining the respective information.
What are your milestones for further developing, implementing, and establishing your initiative in the next three years? Please describe 1-3 milestones.

The main aim is to reach as many witnesses as possible and so to develop the content of the Memory of Nations platform. The major enemy of the Memory of Nations project is the time, because the witnesses are passing away too quickly. Therefore we are trying to wider the team of collectors, who are interviewing the witnesses, to be able to record the maximum of their memories.
The further development is based on creating new interesting ways of accessing the public... and not forget about the past, live in the present and look forward to the future.