Dr Gil Pasternak of De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) has secured a grant of over £500,000 for a project exploring the role of digital media in defining cultural heritage.
Dr Pasternak, Senior Research Fellow in Photographic History, will lead the DigiCONFLICT research consortium consisting of a team of researchers from DMU, the Institute of Art of the Polish Academy of Sciences and Linköping University in Sweden.
The grant was awarded by the Joint Programming Initiative on Cultural Heritage (JPICH), which is part of the European Commission, and fits with the European Union’s Year of Cultural Heritage taking place during 2018.
The project will run between 2018 and 2021 to explore how national and ethnic communities around the world have used digital heritage to define and preserve their cultural assets and sense of morality.
With their research mainly considering case studies from Sweden, Israel and Poland, the three partner institutions will focus on oral history, multimedia museums and photography as the most commonly used media employed in digital heritage.
They will also commission other scholars, curators, archivists, digitisation officers and librarians from around the world to write related essays to give the project a bigger spread of data.
“We will be looking into the realities that have been established around digitisation and digitalisation practices,” Dr Pasternak explained.
“Digital heritage has largely become a lynchpin of educational and ideological efforts. As such it allows us to explore how established nations, culturally diverse societies and ethnic minorities transform around its making and dissemination.
“We will be looking at what happens to historical narratives, moral values and national and personal identities when politicians, policymakers, third-sector professionals and community members come together to turn tangible and intangible cultural products into digital data.”
Originally from Israel, now British, and of Jewish and Polish heritage, Dr Pasternak feels the subject matter of the project is of significance to individuals and societies alike. But he also believes that the current global interest in the impact of politics on national and personal identities makes this the perfect time to embark on this project.
He said: “At the moment we are living in a time when it is plainly visible how culture and cultural differences have become key political benefits as well as challenges in many countries.
“We will be looking into the way that majority and minority communities turn to digital heritage in order to claim and reshape spaces, histories and various social rights.
“Digital heritage is a medium that confronts the past and the present with each other, so our research will have both historical and contemporary value.”
Dr Pasternak believes that this research project will be of great scholarly and social use and that it links directly to DMU’s research strategy, which aims to focus on research with a strong societal impact.
He added: “This project is of great significance and importance because digital heritage now has immense influence on the way people learn about themselves and about each other. Inasmuch as it can help build bridges between cultures, it may as well be used to marginalise, even destroy others.
“It’s incredibly tough to secure a grant in arts and humanities nowadays, let alone a large grant like this. The DigiCONFLICT consortium and I consider it a great achievement to have been awarded this grant.
“But what is much more important is that success like this should in my view reinstate a sense of confidence in the mission of scholars who still believe education can make a positive difference in society.”