Meet the members Council: Cristina Roiu

Author: Cristina Roiu

I have been working in the library field for a long time, and my roles always had to do with international co-operation, partnerships and engaging communities. At present, I am coordinating the International Marketing Department of the Romanian Academy Library, after many years as an exchange librarian with the the Romanian Academy. Of course, I am very happy that some of the most beautiful collections of the Romanian Academy Library can be found in Europeana. But when I started collaborating with Europeana in 2012, I didn’t think it would also transform my very own life!

Engaging communities: the power of the crowd

During the four Europeana 1914-1918 crowdsourcing campaigns I coordinated in Romania, I witnessed the power the project had in engaging people - which is amazing for a former socialist country where the public involvement in community projects is still very low! From Prince Radu (the first contributor in Romania) to groups of teenagers, I have been extremely moved by the enthusiasm people showed in contributing to this impressive digital archive. It is hard to forget that a centenarian woke up at 5am to be sure he would be on time to tell his WWI family story, or the efforts by old people who travelled seven hours by train for the same purpose. During these collection days, I have also been approached by college teachers who wanted to develop some educational events and programs using the digital archive. Together, we have since organized a few workshops as part of the ‘School otherwise week’ edition of 2014 and 2015 (you can read about these events in the blog). Among many other, Europeana 1914-1918 campaigns also revealed the fascinating story of the only military enrolled nun in Romania, Sister Mina Hociota, whose life was unknown to the general public in the communist times.

Objects and documents collected during Europeana1914-1918 roadshows in Romania

Enabling inter-generational discussions

When the Europeana 1989 project came to Romania, I remembered those sad days of December 1989 when my friend Andra, with whom I used to play during my childhood, died tragically. On 21 of December, she was shot in the head and the military tanks crushed her body. In those terrible days, I hadn’t been able to bring decent flowers to her funeral. But Europeana enabled me to tell her story a quarter of a century later, and also gathers many more stories of people who died young fighting for their freedom. With an entire digitization team of young people who didn’t know anything about the events of December 1989 or the communist times, the Europeana1989 campaign in Bucharest has been a very useful ‘inter-generational conversation’.

Sister Mina Hociota as a nun and in military uniform, Europeana1914-1918, public domain

A transformative experience

For me, collaborating on these projects was a fascinating journey and a necessary remembering of our recent communist history. But it was also an opportunity to put my creativity and other personal skills at work! I am now a big fan of crowdsourcing projects: being passionate about history, I got deeply involved as volunteer in cultural heritage projects developed by local associations. It has been quite a long trip for me, but the journey has just started and many interesting experiences and activities are to follow, especially with the upcoming 2018 European Year of Cultural Heritage.

Europeana it not only about wonderful paintings or outstanding cultural heritage items. It is also about understanding our common past, learning how we can (re)discover shared values, and reinforcing the sense of belonging to Europe. Together with my Europeana1914-1918 family, involving the Romanian Academy’s research institutes, our network members and our local communities, I shall continue this wonderful journey, and do my best to promote Europeana as a public engagement space.