Visual representations of Romani in 19th and 20th centuries
The Second Europeana Research Grants programme gave the opportunity to some great researchers to develop their projects with Europeana funding. The Europeana grant winners are currently busy working on their projects but have managed to find the time to answer some questions.
In this interview series, we highlight their work, their lives and what digital cultural heritage means to them. The second grant winner in this series is Dr. Caterina Preda, lecturer and researcher at Bucharest University in Romania. Her project for Europeana is called ‘A visual tool for the display of the visual representations of the Roma population in Romania in the 19th and 20th centuries in the Europeana collections: between stereotypes and truthfulness’.
What is your current academic position and what’s your research focus?
I am currently a tenured Senior University Lecturer at the Department of Political Science of Bucharest University, with a PhD in Political Science. I teach courses on art and politics and cultural memory, as well as courses on Latin American politics. I have been researching the relationship between art and politics in dictatorships in Eastern Europe and South America with a focus on Romania and Chile. My recent research also deals with cultural memory practices in post-dictatorships or other post-traumatic contexts such as the Porajmos (the Romani Holocaust). I have also participated in a project that dealt with the history of the Roma population in Romania. It is there that I discovered my interest in dealing with the stereotypes of representation of the second most important Romanian minority. I want to confront the artistic representation of Romani with archival sources, and highlight historical facts that are not integrated in the general history of Romania, or are only marginally taken into account.
How did you discover the Europeana Grants Programme and why did you decide to apply for it?
I discovered the call for proposals online and started going through the Europeana database, which led me to reflect on the sources that depict the Romani people. I thought it could be interesting to build an online tool to use in classrooms, both at high school and university levels, to try to help bring about a more balanced understanding of the stereotypes that this minority faces even today. The deconstruction of the historical representation of Roma population in Romania in images lies at the basis of our project.
How does access to digital cultural heritage influence your research?
In my projects I have tried to integrate as many archival sources as possible that provide a better understanding of certain research topics. In this sense, digital cultural heritage is I think essential to a series of research topics. Digitising the archives of state institutions and private collections that relate to the Roma population could help enrich our understanding of some specific historical periods. We have for example worked with the archives of the Union of Visual Artists (UAP) in Romania and had to search through thousands of documents. Digitising those records could make a huge difference. Making these resources more accessible and providing a theoretical and historical context for their reading today should be an ongoing societal project.
How will Europeana help you achieve your research goal?
Europeana helps us achieve our research goal through the use of the online collections of images it provides, which can be reused on our platform and shown in classrooms or used as a research source by students who are interested in the representation of the Roma population in Romania. Our project will provide a web platform that can be used as an online visual tool for the representation of the Roma in Romania. It will include images from the Europeana collection, as well as accompanying historical and theoretical background information.