The cultural heritage of the Arctic, the history of the exploration of the Arctic and the life of the region’s inhabitants are highly important. However, these can often be hard to restore, because the information resources are rare and incomplete, have different formats and languages and is spread across many countries.

Addressing this challenge, many national libraries and archives are digitalizing their collections in order to preserve them for the coming generations. The project “Electronic Memory of the Arctic (EMA)” aims to bring such electronic resources together, encompassing all the Arctic states.

The EMA project has been designed to accumulate, digitalize, preserve and provide free access to the cultural and historical resources related to the circumpolar world, currently stored in different formats in national libraries, archives, museums and private collections. The project team has already established the technical framework for an easily accessible and searchable database, using state-of-the-art digital technologies.

EMA portal also foresees the establishment of an Arctic expert community and ArcticWiki based on the already digitised version of “The Northern Encyclopedia.”

The project idea to create an electronic Arctic depositary was first announced by Sergey Lavrov, Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, and gained support by the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Region. The implementation started as the “National electronic sound depositary – Sound collections of peoples of the North”. This project developed into the EMA initiative that was widely presented at the Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG) and the Senior Arctic Official meetings in the Arctic Council. In November 2011 in Luleå, the project was endorsed by the SAOs and the EMA portal was officially launched.

The first conference as a milestone

The First international scientific and practical conference “Electronic Memory of the Arctic – Cultural Communications of the Circumpolar World” was held at The National Library of Russia, St. Petersburg, on December 12-13, 2012, followed by the 2nd International festival of documentary films “The Arctic”. The conference united the leading libraries, archives and research institutions of the Arctic, including UArctic, ArcticPortal (Iceland), Arctic Centre (Finland), The National Library of NorwayThe Saami Archives, University Library of Tromsø (Norway), The Yukon Archives (Canada), and over 20 Russian libraries, scientific institutions and archives. 
The conference participants discussed further development of the EMA project and integration of the national archives into the EMA portal. Other issues included use of EMA portal in education in the Arctic; endangered languages of the indigenous minorities of the North and future establishment of the International Scientific Multifunctional Arctic Center in Salekhard (Russia).

Involving new partners

The first Memorandum of Understanding was signed between EMA and The National Library of Norway in the end of 2011. The library reported on the preparatory stage of the resource integration: “The National Library of Norway has a lot of materials on the Arctic – printed, sound, and radio archives that we are now ready to copy from our site to the EMA”, confirmed Roger Jøsevold from the Library. The second memorandum of understanding was concluded with the National Archives of Norway (Grete Gunn Bergstrøm). 

The way forward

EMA will not only become a huge international free electronic library and archives of the Arctic, but also a useful instrument that the countries can use for educational, scientific and cultural purposes. This view and appreciation of this goal was expressed by several speakers. 
  
Vadim Chebanov, Director of the Non-profit partnership EMA, believes that the goals and objectives of the Conference have been achieved. Regarding the current status of the Project, he said: “For us, the important thing is that we now have a Norwegian flag at the portal. It means the launch of the Norwegian national information segment.” He expressed hope that other Arctic countries would soon join the project and the conference would become an annual event.

Photo: EMA conference participants in front of The National Library of Russia in St.Petersburg, by the EMA project.