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Part 1: What Is to Be Done?

Description: CIUS conference audio (Part 1 of 16)

John-Paul Himka opens the conference by outlining the goal of making sure that Ukrainian sacred culture on the prairies is well documented for future scholars and for future generations.

Transcription found in this PDF
Author: CIUS
Publisher: CIUS
Date: January 26, 2008
Contributor: John-Paul Himka
Language: English
Transcription: John-Paul Himka: Welcome to the planning workshop for Sanctuary: The Spiritual Heritage Documentation Project. As you know, our project wants to make sure that Ukrainian sacred culture on the prairies is well documented for future scholars and for future generations. We do not know how much of the material aspects of that culture will still be standing a generation from now. Some churches are in disrepair and others no longer exist. Our rural communities are shrinking drastically. Not all these buildings can be preserved physically, but we can at least make sure that they have been carefully recorded for posterity. We want a digitized record of all past projects that have painted or photographed the churches. We want to copy historical photos in private and institutional hands for a central digital record. The Sanctuary project will itself systematically photograph all churches (exterior and interior), bell towers, cemeteries, tombstones, and chapels in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. We will also digitize all historic recordings of church music from the parishes. At least some of this material will be made available on the internet. The question that we should have in mind as we proceed today is: If all these churches were to disappear, what record would we like to have left behind? We have, we realize, invited too many people to do too many things in too little time at today’s workshop. Yet I remain convinced that this is the way to begin. We plan to do more follow up later, and we can electronically collect and share input from all the participants who have points to make that did not get aired in the oral discussions. The main point of today’s workshop is to gather and sift ideas about how to proceed. We have already learned a tremendous amount just preparing the workshop. The next step we envision is applying for a grant of $10,000 or so to run a pilot project this spring and summer. That should give us the experience to put together a major grant application to do the entire job that we want to get done. I am looking forward to completion within five to seven years. From what we’ve learned so far, we know there have been excellent related projects conducted in the past and going on now. One task we envision is linking all the dispersed information together. It also looks like our project will have to do a thorough job recording the interiors of churches. The charm of an onion-domed church on the prairie landscape has led many to paint and photograph exteriors, but the icons inside, the vessels and vestments inside, have not been as lovingly or assiduously recorded. In certain respects our task will be reminiscent of the kind of information collected by parish visitations in the past, which included a written inventory of the entire contents of churches. We will produce a written and visual inventory. This will have practical importance for the churches themselves and for church institutional structures; scholarly significance for generations of art historians, historians, liturgists, and musicologists; and emotional significance for the many who can trace their ancestors to these sacred monuments. This project will be labor intensive, and we need skilled volunteer labor in mass. I also envision bringing students and young scholars from Ukraine to help. This will be good for them and good for the project. Ukraine it self is in desperat e need of a similar project and of people who could carry it out. A few notes about procedures. Please, if you have not already done so, go pick up a name tag and sign the pink release form. The release form allows us to film the workshop. Also, time is short, so I beg all speakers to stay strictly within their suggested time limits. During the discussions that follow presentations, please come up to the podium to speak. This is important so that all can hear what you have to say and so that we can record the workshop effectively. Please identify yourself at the beginning of your comments. And, of course, try to formulate your insights in such a way that it economizes on the use of speaker time. Finally, I have to thank the Ukrainian Studies Fund, which subsidized much of the travel for out-of-town participants. I especially want to thank the Fund’s director, Roman Procyk. Also, I want to recognize the efficient work of my assistant in the Religion and Culture Program, Pan Magister Michal Mlynarz. Let the games begin!
Original Format: Digital audio recording





CIUS, “Part 1: What Is to Be Done?,” CIUS-Archives, accessed February 22, 2024,
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