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Frequently Asked Questions | FAQ

What is RomArchive?

RomArchive is a digital archive for Roma arts and cultures. It archives works from all genres and augments them with contemporary documents and scholarly appraisals.

Each section of the Archive is the responsibility of its respective curatorial team, who have also selected the contents.

As an internationally accessible space that renders Romani cultures and histories visible, RomArchive is responding both to the ascriptions perennially imposed by others and to entrenched stereotypes by providing counter-narratives told by Roma themselves.

RomArchive makes no claim to completeness but sees itself rather as a continuously growing platform that presents collections with representative contents.

In addition to the published materials, RomArchive maintains an Internal Archive containing further media, including texts and images. The Internal Archive is accessible upon request and after submitting a description of your individual research focus.

RomArchive is international. The curatorial teams and advisory board are predominately made up of Roma.

Goals

What are the goals of RomArchive?

Digitising art

RomArchive collects and digitises a representative selection of artistic contributions by Roma which are highly relevant to our shared cultural history, and augments them with scholarly perspectives. The main concern, apart from passing on knowledge, is to preserve cultural assets.

Passing on knowledge & countering stereotypes

The Archive creates a reliable source of knowledge that contrasts perceptions, myths and stereotypes about Roma with counter-narratives that are told by Roma themselves based on established facts.

Thanks to the Internet, the resulting body of knowledge and findings are easily accessible internationally for both the majority societies and the minority group. They also form the basis for future scholarly research. New narratives are created which also reflect the diverse national and cultural identities of Roma.

Romani leadership & sustainability

Roma are heavily involved in all the decision-making processes at RomArchive; the contents are compiled by minority representatives.

From the very outset of the project it was planned to hand over RomArchive to an international Roma organisation after a five-year planning and development phase (2015–2019).

Project History

Who developed RomArchive?

The individuals involved in the project – including the assorted working groups this amounts to some 150 people from fifteen countries across Europe and beyond – form a global network of cultural practitioners and artists, scholars, theorists and activists, most of whom come from a Roma background.

An international team of curators was responsible for planning the form and contents of the individual Archive sections.

An international advisory board supported and advised the curators and set out the strategic guidelines for the project. This included developing the Ethical Guidelines and the collection policy as well as deciding which organisation will take over responsibility for the project. The advisory board is made up of artists, scholars and activists as well as representatives from international Roma organisations which are active in art, culture and academic disciplines.

The project team headed by the initiators Franziska Sauerbrey and Isabel Raabe was responsible for the overall coordination, administered the budget and acquired further external funding.

What are the respective archive sections?

Fourteen curators defined the contents and selected artistic contributions for the ten sections Visual Arts, Film, Literature, Music, Dance, Theatre and Drama as well as for the interdisciplinary Flamenco section. There are also archive sections devoted to the thematic issues Politics of Photography and the Civil Rights Movements as well as the ‘Voices of the Victims’, which presents the testimonies of Sinti and Roma who were persecuted during the Nazi era.

Who decided on the contents of RomArchive?

Roma have contributed to the Archive in all the key positions: as curators, artists, scholars and as members of the advisory board accompanying the project.

The curators define the Archive content. Unlike ‘hegemonic’ archives, which mostly depict Roma in stereotypical terms, the focus in RomArchive is on their self-representation. The curators were supported and advised in their work by the international advisory board.

How did the name come about?

In a democratic vote held at its first ever meeting in June 2015, the RomArchive advisory board decided to adopt the name ‘RomArchive’ as well as a sub-heading in three languages: ‘Digitales Archiv der Sinti und Roma’ in German, ‘Digital Archive of the Roma’ in English and ‘Romano Digitalno Arxivo’ in Romani.

The use in German of the designation ‘Sinti und Roma’ was recommended by the Zentralrat Deutscher Sinti und Roma. In the Ethical Guidelines the RomArchive advisory board stipulated that this designation be used for all archive texts.

How was the visual appearance developed?

The Deutsche Kinemathek – Museum für Film und Fernsehen is the partner in charge of technical implementation.

A working group comprising curators and members of the advisory board and project team was responsible for the visual appearance of the website and deciding how the contents should be presented.

With its curated contents, modern storytelling and intelligent contextualisation, the aesthetics and methodology of RomArchive differ from what is found in static databases. An intelligent contextualisation provides background information, helps users to understand the multifaceted complexities and thus ensures a differentiated reading of the works shown. The Archive website appeals to the senses, offering users a striking point of entry which aims to inspire an in-depth involvement with the themes presented.

To make RomArchive internationally accessible, it is multilingual in structure. Besides German and English, the Archive has used Romani from the start. Translations into other languages are planned, depending on financing being made available by the countries in which these languages are primarily spoken.

How does RomArchive use Romani?

Of the twelve to fourteen million Roma worldwide today, around four million speak Romani in its many variations, which is why Romani features in UNESCO’s world atlas of endangered languages.

Romani developed around a thousand years ago, when Roma heading for Europe from India came into contact with different languages; this contact has left behind traces in the vocabulary and grammar of Romani. It is the only Indian language spoken outside India, and as an Indo-Germanic language it is at the same time related to other European languages.

The discussions and debates on standardising and codifying Romani are still going on across Europe. Various activists and experts have different ideas as to how Romani is to be preserved for future generations, which alphabet should be used for the written form, etc. As a spoken language, Romani is at least partially standardised. The international meetings and conferences in Strasbourg and Brussels, where Roma from different countries and with different dialects come together, provide a platform where Roma first have to agree on a common Romani in order to be able to speak with one another.

In the RomArchive texts, various Romani (supra-) dialects are used without priority given to any single one so as to ensure comprehensibility for as many people as possible. The various Romani (supra-) dialects reflect the language’s plurality and are consistent with the general approach taken by RomArchive: rather than establishing any fixed definitions, the heterogeneity and diversity existing amongst Roma should be emphasised. Following a decision of the advisory board, there are no publications in Sintitikes, the Romani spoken by Sinti.

What is the background to RomArchive and how was it developed?

The German Federal Cultural Foundation has supported RomArchive since 2015. RomArchive was officially constituted on 26 June 2015 in Berlin with the first advisory board meeting; the curators were then appointed and commenced their work.

The idea for RomArchive is based on extensive research and numerous interviews that the project initiators Franziska Sauerbrey and Isabel Raabe conducted throughout Europe with Romani artists, curators, activists and academics. The fact that the German Federal Cultural Foundation was already active by then made it possible to carry out this comprehensive research. One requirement was clearly articulated in the discussions: to create an internationally accessible space that renders Romani cultures and histories visible, a presence that responds to the externally imposed designations and ever-recurrent stereotypes with counter-narratives told by Roma themselves.

The organisation that implemented the RomArchive project during its planning and development phase was sauerbrey |raabe gUG.

RomArchive went online in January 2019. Before that, it was possible to follow the curators’ work and the progress made by the project as a whole via a blog, on Facebook or Twitter, and – in the analogue world – at accompanying cultural events held in various European cities.

Who has sponsored and supported RomArchive?

The German Federal Cultural Foundation has supported the RomArchive project with 3.75 million Euros. This is sending a clear signal that one of Europe’s largest public foundations is focusing attention on Europe’s largest minority group, acknowledging the wealth of its centuries-old culture and seeking to raise its public profile. The fact that a German federal institution is embracing a project of this kind is of particular importance in light of the Nazi genocide committed against the Sinti and Roma, which claimed some 500,000 lives.

Right from the beginning of the planning phase, the European Roma Cultural Foundation and the Zentralrat Deutscher Sinti und Roma were active in an advisory capacity.

The German Federal Agency for Civic Education and the German Foreign Office provided financial support in the development phase of RomArchive.

Additionally, from 2019 onwards, the Federal Agency for Civic Education is supporting the editorial work and maintenance of the Archive for a further five years.

The Goethe-Institut has also supported the work of RomArchive and accompanied the project with special events.

Support

Who can I contact if I wish to make material available for the Archive?

The Archive is designed and structured to facilitate continued growth, serving as a contact point for preserving material on Roma cultures and histories for the future. If you wish to make available material for the Archive, please contact the executing institution.

It is of course also possible to restrict the use of material to the Internal Archive, which is only accessible after official registration and proof of a valid research interest.

Internal archive

Who can I contact if I wish to research in the Internal Archive?

In addition to the materials published on this website, RomArchive has an Internal Archive, which contains further material: additional documents and images, as well as ‘orphan works’ whose rights could not be clarified. The Internal Archive is also designed for growth and is intended to become a central source for archiving, cataloguing and making available material for research purposes. Access to this archive must be applied for and granted by the host of RomArchive once the interest in research has been cited.

Please contact the executing institution to submit a request for access to the Internal Archive. To ensure that your application is processed speedily, please give a clear description of the purpose and nature of your research.