Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Poland -- New Virtual Shtetl Resource

The Museum of the History of Polish Jewry has just launched the beta version of its "Virtual Shtetl" project, which aims to be an ever-growing online archive and database of photographs, video, texts, old postcards, maps and other reference material on Jewish history and heritage in towns, cities and villages in Poland. Users will have the possibility of adding their own material.

Check out the site by clicking HERE.

The web site states:

The Virtual Shtetl Portal is devoted to the local history of Jews. Although at the moment of the Portal launching it contains a lot of information, its future is based on the cooperation of Internauts using Web 2.0 solutions. Thus a medium is created which constitutes a sort of bridge between the history of Polish Jewish towns and the contemporary, multicultural world.

The Museum of the History of Polish Jews has been creating this modern tool at the time when the construction project of the museum building is just beginning. The Virtual Shtetl is a museum without walls, a logical consequence of the initiative to build the Museum , it also provides the answer to social expectations.

The Virtual Shtetl depicts the history of Polish Jews, which in great part was created in towns (Yiddish: shetl). On the Portal one can find the information pertaining to the past but also to the present, to little towns, but also to large cities. The Portal presents both contemporary and also pre-war Poland. The English version will enable the Polish Jews and their descendants scattered all over the world to use the Virtual Shtetl Portal.

A full picture of Polish-Jewish history and relations has been and will be presented thanks to the effort of many institutions, organizations and private persons. Due to the richness of the subject the list of initiatives to be taken up is unlimited. A source of precious information has been provided by the Polin Portal as well the local community portal Jewish.org.pl. In the execution of the Virtual Shtetl Project the experience of the following Internet projects has been used: izrael.badacz.org and Diapozytyw (Adam Mickiewicz Institute) as well as many years’ cooperation of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews with the Jewish Historical Institute.

The Virtual Shtetl is not a place, but the community by which it is created. Let us take pictures and look for the relics of the past, let us listen to accounts. Let us exchange information and encourage one another to take up initiatives. Let us get to know one another and act.

In some ways, the site is similar to the Polin portal of the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland (Fodz). (And in fact, some of the material appears to be the same -- looks like there is the same little video of the Jewish cemetery in Bielsko Biala.)

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