“Electronic Memory of the Arctic” – conference on cultural communication in the circumpolar world

It’s a high profile conference taking place in St Petersburg, with support by the Arctic Council, RF Ministry of Foreign Affairs, RF Ministry of Culture and the Russian Geographical Society.
For us arctic anthropologists, it’s nice to see that this conference has cultural communication in its name. The organisers understand under cultural communication all activities by humans in Arctic, which builds a welcome bridge between the indigenous cultural heritage in the Arctic, and the history of Arctic exploration.
The special focus is on electronic resources. The project “electronic memory of the Arctic”, which is a project endorsed by the Arctic council in 2011, is the official host of this conference.

It is nice to hear that they have

  • a progressive open access policy,
  • a circumpolar scope, even though the focus is on the Russian Arctic
  • a commitment to english as international working language.
Where is Arctic cultural diversity here in the conference and project logo? Is it about exploring "pristine nature" again?
Where is Arctic cultural diversity here in the conference and project logo? Is it about exploring “pristine nature” again?

Their main effort is to digitise research materials and make it publicly available for everybody, and – the good news is that their website already works, and it’s menus are in English too. Since the West Siberian Yamal Okrug is among the key sponsors, material on Nenets and the exploration of West Siberia is already numerous, but there is also other content, e.g. on Kamchatka, Yakutia, and – increasingly – the Norwegian Arctic, due to a cooperation of EMA with the Norwegian National Library. They invite more participants for living up to the circumpolar mission of the EMA project. Maybe there are avenues for cooperation with European Arctic Information Hubs?

From the arcticanthropology team Roza Laptander and Florian Stammler take part in this events, with presentations on our oral history research and our ideas of archiving and disseminating oral history information and research with data from between northeasternmost Finnish Lapland and Yamal. We also want to make part of our research information freely accessible, where our research partners agree to that. Therefore we can start thinking about whether or not that EMA project is an appropriate channel of bringing our research results back to the regions where we work.

On the other hand, I think we should also remember that any electronic open collection reaches only as far into the Arctic as the internet reaches. Even in those remote villages where internet is available in principle, it does not mean that the people with whom we work in ORHELIA really would go to such a website and check this information. Moreover, on the EMA site nothing is downloadable.

That is why we have started working on an outreach and dissemination component that undertakes to combine our own oral history data with locally existing private or collective data, e.g. family history tapes in the European Nenets Okrug. Arcticanthropology and ORHELIA researcher Stephan Dudeck introduced that effort earlier here on the blog (). We would present a selection of material, that allows us to compare the perception of 20th century events through people’s life across two Sámi and two Nenets societies. That material we would like to make available both online and offline, as well as a printed book, after 2015. So far we have not been successful with getting this funded, but we will keep trying…

In the conference in St Petersburg, very strong participation comes from the Herzen

Nadezhda Okotetto, who worked on visual anthropology and the role of dogs among Nenets nomads
Nadezhda Okotetto, who worked on visual anthropology and the role of dogs among Nenets nomads

Institute for Northern Peoples. Their department of ethno-culturology has very interesting projects that are definitely worth following for us. Docent Sofia Sorokina introduced projects of indigenous students that are really fieldwork based,  for example by Nadezhda Okotetto, who worked with visual anthropology and did a documentary about the role of the dog among Nenets. That is a hardly-studied topic even within human-animal relations. Or for example by Veniamin Salinder, who worked on reindeer herding as work on livelihood among the Gydan Nenets nomads. We hope that we can link up with these people, maybe for joint work in the tundra at some p0int?

photo by (c) Veniamin Salinder from Gydan Tundra
photo by (c) Veniamin Salinder from Gydan Tundra

By the way, this electronic memory of the Arctic conference is part of the ARCTIC DAYS in St Petersburg, in the framework of which a range of other events will take place, for example the second international festival of documentary film “The Arctic”