NameAbout the Project
 
The short textThe database of the Virtual Museum of the Gulag constitutes a collection of material testimonies to the era of the Soviet terror. These testimonies are scattered through multiple museums and collections and also include "non-museum objects": ruins of camps and structures, monuments and memorial signs.

The Virtual Museum of the Gulag is a project of the Research and Information Centre "Memorial" (St Petersburg). The database and website were created by ZAO "Alt-Soft".
 
The full textContemporary Russia has no national Museum of the Gulag. The Museum is absent not just as a material object. It is absent in Russian culture as the indispensable link between knowledge and understanding, fact and event, experience and memory. The memory of the communist terror has failed to become an integral part of national memory. Instead, it persists in the form of fragmented memories of local events that are not linked by a conceptual essence. It is precisely this state of memory that is evident from existing museum collections and exhibition projects. To date the Museum of the Gulag consists of an aggregate of amateur initiatives and creative projects that are geographically dispersed and methodologically and thematically disparate. In many towns and cities of the former USSR there are museums, run by the local government or a public initiative, or attached to an institution or school, whose permanent exhibitions feature sections that are dedicated to one or several aspects of the Gulag. These museums purposefully collect documentary and material testimonies relating to the history of repression, as well as organise temporary or recurring exhibitions. As a rule, these initiatives are unrelated and undertaken by museum collectives. The majority of exhibitions organised in this way are known only to a very narrow circle of visitors and not in demand outside a geographically limited community. Nevertheless the pressing necessity remains to comprehend the experience of Gulag and terror through an integrated museum representation. Today we must understand that all the components of this museum already exist in the form of the autonomous initiatives described above. Complementing and sometimes contradicting each other, they are gathering the experience that must become the basis for the future Museum. The main question that remains is how to combine these constituent elements into a single semantic whole. How to integrate incomplete and fragmented local knowledge into a single historical panorama?

The Research and Information Centre “Memorial” in St Petersburg has been pursuing the idea of creating a Virtual Museum of the Gulag for five years now. We consider this Museum to be the sum of the existing diverse museums and exhibitions, brought together in a single virtual space for the purpose of juxtaposition and the search for ways of integration. This must be done in such a way that local and author-specific characteristics are not lost, but become an inalienable part of the whole. For this purpose we are assembling a collection of images detailing the material memory of state terror during the Soviet era. For the most part this material memory is taken from existing museums. The ultimate goal of our project is the creation of a Virtual Museum that presents a map of the history of the terror, as well as the present state of the memory of this terror as evident from material objects. The “non-museum” memory of the terror likewise constitutes an inalienable constituent of this map; in our collection it is represented in two dedicated sections: “Traces of the Gulag” – tokens of the past in the landscape and man-made sphere that surround us, and “Necropolis of the Gulag” – hundreds of preserved, semi-preserved and almost-vanished burial sites of terror victims. The next stage of our project will be the creation of a fully-fledged virtual museum on this basis of the assembled collection. This means a museum with multimedia presentation of the exhibits, detailed, museum-standard documentation, a scholarly apparatus that includes thematic and other rubrics, indices and virtual card indexes, thematic exhibitions, permanent and temporary displays and a well-designed system of virtual excursions.

The “Virtual Museum of the Gulag” is a project of the Research and Information Centre “Memorial” (St Petersburg).
The software for the project is developed and maintained by the ZAO “Alt-Soft” Information and Communication Technologies (St Petersburg). www.altsoft.spb.ru