At present in Bulgaria, diverse materials from the 1940s and 1950s relating to the Gypsy/Roma culture are kept in small private collections. These include various written texts such as amateur genealogies, personal memoirs, artistic literature on the Gypsy theme, posters of musical performances, hand-outs of community events of the Gypsy organizations and political flyers, photographs and old records of Gypsy music. Since the 1960s with the assimilation of the Gypsy/Roma culture into mainstream society, these materials have become outdated and could become dangerous for their owners. A lot of this material has already been destroyed or lost, but nevertheless nowadays quite a few are preserved in private collections, mainly the descendants of the old activists of the Gypsy movement of the 1940s and 1950s.
There is a serious risk of the absolute disappearance of all these materials. The descendants of the old Gypsy activists do not always realise their importance and may either neglect or physically destroy them. If measures are not taken soon, these materials witnessing the transition of Gypsy/Roma to modern society will be lost.
The main aim of the proposed pilot project is to discover the existing collections of this material, connected with the community and cultural activity of the Gypsies in Bulgaria in the end of the 1940s and the beginning of 1950s and earlier, which will be digitised and also relocated where possible to the Studii Romani Archive at the Ethnographical Institute and Museum of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.
In addition, during the 1920s Roma newsletters and booklets were printed, some of them connected to evangelical missions, other to community life. Most of the copies of these newspapers and booklets have disappeared but some issues are preserved in private collections. During the communist era, copies of some of these newspapers were kept in the archives of public libraries. After 1989 some material from the archives was opened to the public, other materials were destroyed, some of them with a high historical or cultural value, and among them were some of the Roma newsletters and booklets. This project will discover the surviving copies of the newsletters and booklets and relocate them, or their copies, to the safe environment of the Studii Romani Archive.
900 items connected with the community and cultural activity of the Gypsies in Bulgaria in the end of the 1940s and the beginning of 1950s have been digitised and relocated to the Studii Romani Archive at the Ethnographical Institute and Museum of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. This includes:
The Gypsy community in Bulgaria was informed about the project and extremely supportive. The team was informed of many more items which needed to be preserved, but the project time was not enough to visit all the places and digitise the materials which members of various Gypsy communites and organisation presented or expressed wish to present to the archive. Through means of the so-called 'Gypsy telegraf' (oral or witten information distributed quickly among Gypsy communties) the project became well known also in neigbouring countries and the team was contacted in order to ask about possibility to have also their heritage stored in archive 'Studii Romani'.
The original material is now housed in the Studii Romani Archive at the Ethnographical Institute and Museum of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Str. Moskovska 6-a, Sofia 1000, Bulgaria. Digital copies are also held here and in the British Library.
Read online the open access article: The first Gypsy/Roma organisations, churches and newspapers, published in the EAP Anniversary publication From Dust to Digital. The article can also be downloaded as a PDF (623KB).
The records copied by this project have been catalogued as:
The catalogue is available here.