Digitizing the Documentation of the National Register of Intangible Cultural Heritage

The project "Digitizing the Documentation of the National Register of Intangible Cultural Heritage and the Application of New Information and Communication Technologies in the Protection and Promotion of Intangible Cultural Heritage" was launched by the Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) at the Ethnographic Museum in Belgrade with the idea of upgrading the National Register of Intangible Cultural Heritage so as to enable comprehensive, professional maintenance of documentation on ICH that would be adjusted to practical needs, while ensuring public access in accordance with specified conditions and contributing to the promotion of the role of ICH, its identification, registration and safeguarding.

Having in mind that the 2003 UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage stipulated that all state parties to the Convention establish a national inventory of elements of intangible cultural heritage in their territory, in June 2012, the Centre for the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Serbia was established at the Ethnographic Museum in Belgrade. One of its main tasks is the maintenance of the National Register of ICH. Based on the experience in collecting and documenting ICH and maintaining the National Register, the Centre identified the need to improve it by developing a new electronic database. The safeguarding of ICH involves constant maintenance and updating of information related to the elements included in the National Register and, consequently, the maintenance and updating of documentation, which is the Register’s integral part. The aims of the project were to create a new digital National Register of ICH that would contain an inventory of ICH, as well as records related to registered elements and those nominated for inscription on the UNESCO list, i.e. the documentation on elements of ICH in a digital format; to create conditions for appropriate archiving of ICH-related documentation, as well as its use and presentation. By ensuring access to a part of the content of the National Register within a broader platform for the presentation of ICH, the access to ICH has been facilitated not only to professional audiences and ICH bearers, but also to the general public.

Other important aims of this project were to summarize the previous, five-year work on registering and safeguarding ICH in Serbia, to raise a professional debate on documenting ICH, and to propose guidelines for the further development of the ICH safeguarding system in Serbia. Bearing in mind that the work aimed at improving the National Register is important for all stakeholders who are part of the ICH safeguarding system in Serbia, a conference was organized where experts involved in professional bodies, representatives of relevant ministries, professional institutions, organizations and bearers of ICH were given an opportunity to exchange their opinions and experiences. This meeting was an important step in the further development of the ICH safeguarding system Serbia and defining future directions of activities aimed at improving the National Register.

The implementation of this project has provided a framework at the Centre of ICH for standardized registration, monitoring and administration procedures, as well as for the protection of data related to the ICH elements included in the National Register of Serbia's ICH; it has also ensured public access to data in accordance with relevant rules, requirements and recommendations of UNESCO and international standards. Along with having an important role in documenting ICH, the project also opens new opportunities in the areas of presentation and familiarizing new users with ICH and enables a more active participation of those stakeholders who have already been involved in the ICH safeguarding system. 

The project was supported under the UNESCO 2014–2015 Participation Programme