Grants:Impact/Cultural Heritage/Trace of a Soul
The Republika Srpska has been home to many civilizations over the last 10,000 years, including the Illyrians, the Celts, and the Ottomans. Sitting in the southeast of Europe, it’s a place of rich culture, radiant stories, and many natural wonders such as the Dinaric Alps to the west.
Having witnessed the rise and fall of civilizations, man-made cultural heritage sites in the Republika Srpska date back centuries. For example, thousands of Stećak Tombs can be found across Bosnia and Herzegovina. A cultural relic from the Middle Ages, Stećak Tombs are a kind of tombstone that were common among followers of the Bosnian, Catholic and Orthodox Churches. These tombstones document stories of the past, with motifs of either real scenes from the deceased’s life or religious symbolism of the time.
However, because of a myriad of factors - geographic isolation, war, neglect - many heritage sites are ill-preserved, undocumented, or even inaccessible due to surrounding minefields. As a result, it’s harder for future generations to partake in the history and heritage of this region, especially those who don’t live in the region today. On Wikimedia sites specifically, the Republika Srpska has been poorly represented, with very few pictures available.
In 2015, a group of Wikimedians from the Republika Srpska came to the Wikimedia Foundation Project & Event Grant program with an idea to rectify this gap. Combining the ideas of two international photo competitions - Wiki Loves Monuments and Wiki Loves Earth - they were able to not only increase the number of articles and photos related to cultural and natural monuments from the Republika Srpska, but also strengthen the capacity of the community, build a stronger volunteer base, and share the beauty of their region with the greater public.
|“||The Republika of Srpska is small, but it is a rich culture, and through this project we are establishing a link between old and new generations.||”|
|— Ljubiša Malenica|
While locals were initially skeptical about the project, the team eventually built trust with government officials, local residents, the Tourist Organization of Višegrad, and the “Republic Institute for Cultural-Historical and Natural Heritage Protection". Eventually community members were eager to engage once they learned that Wikipedians wanted the local communities to lead the process, sharing their cultural heritage locally and globally.
While the grant covered only the first year of the project (2015), the project continued on through 2016 and 2017. As a result, over the three years, 350 people uploaded more than 6000 images of heritage sites, and published more than 500 articles across different languages. Sixty-nine of these images captured natural heritage sites for the first time, addressing a common issue within heritage efforts of de-prioritizing natural heritage for cultural heritage.
Trace of a Soul was the first large community project for the Republic of Srpska. In the end, the informal group of grantees became a the Wikimedians of Republic of Srpska user group, deepening their connection with Wikimedians in the Central and Eastern European region and with Wikimedia overall.
|“||[Through this project], I realized the richness of the cultural, of the country. This project [has] expanded my knowledge and horizons.||”|
|— Bojana Podgorica|