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History of the Project

Idea

RomArchive, the Digital Archive of the Roma, makes arts and cultures of Roma visible, illustrating their contribution to European cultural history. Through narratives told by Roma themselves, RomArchive creates a reliable source of knowledge that is internationally accessible on the internet, thereby countering stereotypes and prejudices with facts.

The idea for RomArchive was based on intensive research and numerous interviews that the project initiators Franziska Sauerbrey and Isabel Raabe conducted with Romani artists, curators, activists and academics across Europe. This was made possible by the German Federal Cultural Foundation. Over the course of many conversations with Roma, it became clear that there was a need to create an internationally accessible site that makes Romani cultures and histories visible; this would make it possible to counter the recurrent stereotypes and entrenched prejudices with narratives told by Roma themselves.

It is not Roma who determine what image of them is circulated in public. Instead, the age-old clichés prevalent in the majority societies continue to dominate, with perennial ascriptions imposed by others which are characterised by a mix of fascination and disdain. There are virtually no positive counter-images or enlightened sources of information on Roma cultures and their genuine social realities. Ultimately, exclusion and contempt are also expressed in the fact that the many different Roma cultures remain largely ignored by European cultural institutions.

The principle of ‘Romani Leadership’ was followed in developing the RomArchive project: in all the key positions, Roma have defined and designed the Archive. Those involved in the project – including the assorted working groups this adds up to some 150 people from fifteen countries across Europe and further afield – formed a global network of cultural actors, scholars and activists, most of whom belong to the minority group.

Meeting regularly to discuss content-related issues, the project’s core group was made up of some forty individuals and included the curators of the ten Archive sections as well as members of the international advisory board, who were responsible for defining the project’s strategic guidelines. At these meetings held during the five-year planning and development phase, a diverse array of interests, cultural identities and national characteristics came together to discuss a common goal: how can self-representation be achieved despite all these differences? And how can counter-narratives be created that disrupt the perpetually recurring stereotypes?

Ultimately, RomArchive has succeeded in respecting this diversity, by telling scores of different stories, presenting a kaleidoscope of various cultures and situating them as an integral part of European cultural history.

The Collections

Conceptualised to accommodate continuous growth, the Archive’s collection reflects the enormous breadth and diversity of cultural identities and national characteristics, while avoiding the pitfall of presenting an unrealistic picture of a homogenous ‘Roma culture’. This is the first time that the wealth of this multifaceted artistic and cultural production – which is centuries-old but remains vibrantly alive today – has been made publicly accessible and visible on such a large scale.

Besides the materials published on this website, RomArchive also has an ‘Internal Archive’ containing further material; this comprises related documents and additional visual material as well as a section for ‘orphaned works’, whose copyright situation could not be clarified. The Internal Archive is also designed to facilitate growth and in the long term is intended to become a main source that archives and catalogues material while making it available for research. Access to this archive is only possible after declaring the specific research interest to the organisation running RomArchive and once approval has been granted. Please contact the executing institution should you be interested.

RomArchive Blog

A blog has documented the work of the curators and the overall development of the project. Between 2016 and 2018, a vast array of multimedia content was published here, spanning reportages, interviews, controversial discussion contributions, essays and features: https://blog.romarchive.eu/.

Project Participants in the Planning and Development Phase (2015–2019)

Curators

An international team of curators was responsible for the design and contents of RomArchive’s sections.

Advisory Board

An international advisory board both supported and advised the curators and formulated the strategic guidelines for the project. It was comprised of artists, scholars and activists:

Project Team

Project Management
Isabel Raabe and Franziska Sauerbrey

Financial Controlling and Contracts
Christof Müller

Project Coordination
Claudia Engels

Conception and mediation of digital archiving, digitisation and cataloguing; content-conceptual interface to website development; content integration

Deutsche Kinemathek – Museum für Film und Fernsehen
Jürgen Keiper, Felix Endruweit and Claudia Relota

Rights Clearance
Mirjana Lozančić

Press and Communication
Denhart v. Harling

Online Communication
William Billa

Translations
Michael Baute, Agi Bezeczky, Paul Bowman, Robert Brambeer, Thomas Brovot, Petra Cech, Rosamaria e. Kistic Cisneros, Xhivan Duka, Melitta Depner, Michael Ebmeyer, Christoph Erlenkamp, Christiane Fennesz-Juhasz, Golda Fischer, Claudia Fuchs, Tobias Fürschke, Lorely French, Martin Gális, Lilian-Astrid Geese, Markéta Hajska, Mozes F. Heinschink, Birgit Igla, Angel L. Ivanov, Sarita Jasarova, Nicolás Jiménez González, Inka Jurková, Pavel Kubanik, Katja Kynast, Ronald Lee, Mina Lunzer, Maria Meinel, Anna Kruszelnicke-Mirga, Dominikus Müller, Sophie Perl, Dragan Ristic, Karolína Ryvolová, Peter Šuster, Wilhelm Werthern, Ira Wilhelm, Zatania Estela

Editing
German: Tina Wessel, Jennifer Sophia-Theodor (Bilderpolitik)
English: Jan Cleave, Golda Fischer (Bilderpolitik), Adrian Marsh (Bürgerrechtsbewegung der Sinti und Roma), Margaret May, Nicola Morris, Melanie Newton
Romani: Jasarov Sejdo (Dance), Ruzdija Sejdoviv (Voices of the Victims), Petra Cech (Literature), Jan Červenka (Music)

Concept and Design
Laura Maikowski, Susanne Beer, Pierre Maite (www.bildargumente.de in Kooperation mit caira.info – ab 2019 www.zoff-kollektiv.net)

Design and Development Content-Management-System,
Development of the Connector to Axiell Collections,
Implementation Webdesign

OpenVideo Multitude Media UG (haftungsbeschränkt), Jan Gerber and Erik Stein

Logo
David Weiss (draft design)
Mareike Windisch (graphics editing)

Legal Advice
Bernd Hoffmeister

Advisors

Other temporary employees

  • Christiane Grün, technical implementaion 10/2015 to 03/2017
  • Sarah Johannsen, student assistance
  • Dorothee Kröger, student assistance
  • Sarah Kuss, student assistance
  • Gilda Nancy Horvath, online communication 06/2015 to 12/2016
  • Lara Raabe, student assistance
  • Kirsti Renner, student assistance
  • Marlitt Seeger, student assistance
  • Armin Ulm, press and communication 06/2015 to 06/2016
  • Andrea Platinská, student assistance