Ancient manuscripts, unique carpets and digital technology: warm memories of EaPEC 2019

What does the digital world have to do with cultural heritage? At first glance, these concepts are completely unrelated. However, it is only at first glance. Participants of the annual EaPEC conference, which was held this year in Yerevan, Armenia, proved that digital technologies help preserve and enhance the unique cultural heritage of mankind

Digital technology at the service of museum staff, linguists and ancient manuscript specialists

On September 25, 2019, the Matenadaran Institute, one of the largest manuscript repositories in the world, opened its doors to participants in the fourth Eastern Partnership E-infrastructure Conference (EaPEC). “Connecting with Culture” was the theme of this year’s conference. And everything contributed to the full disclosure of the topic: from the venue to the presentations that came from the stage. Matenadaran is an amazing place, saturated with the spirit of antiquity and best suited for exploring the connection between digital technology and culture.

Honorary guests, Armenian Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sport, Arayik Harutyunyan, and Head of Sector at DG NEAR Hoa-Binh Adjemian opened the conference. The official part was continued by GÉANT Head, Erik Huizer, and EaPConnect Project Co-Manager, Veronika Di Luna

Hoa-Binh Adjemian, Veronika Di Luna and Erik Huizer. In a few minutes each of them will greet the guests and participants of EaPEC 2019 from the Matenadaran stage

Arayik Harutyunyan is one of the honoured guests who opened the conference

Each speaker on the Matenadaran stage was a professional and willingly talked about using digital technologies in their field.

The audience heard about the complexities of using digital storytelling in museums, about how interesting it is to visitors, how it captivates and educates them, and therefore deserves a search for reliable technological solutions. Participants also got acquainted with the linguistic research network CLARIN and appreciated the important role of language in many disciplines. They discovered the possibilities of artificial intelligence in working with cultural heritage and in ensuring safety: in the first case, AI recognises the origin of letters and helps to read ancient manuscripts, and in the second it recognises potentially dangerous people carrying weapons. And it even knows how to “motivate” data-centres to be energy-aware.

Digital technologies as help in solving global problems of mankind

Of course, they spoke not only about culture but also about other universal values ​​and tasks. For example, about environmental issues. Here, too, digital technology comes to the rescue. The Copernicus project is “Europe’s eyes on the world” that monitor our planet and provide scientists with data on climate change, pollution, crop yields, etc. The GEOFON program helps to access data on Earth’s seismological activity, and the Galileo satellite navigation system is designed to solve geodetic and navigation problems.

During two panel sessions, experts from different countries discussed cybersecurity issues (both theory and practice), as well as the ethics of creating and using artificial intelligence, imaginary and real threats from it for humanity.

About the most important thing – in five minutes

A challenging but fascinating mission had the participants of the Lightning Talks session. They had to talk about their idea or project as briefly as possible, in five minutes. All speakers did their best.

URAN team congratulates Natalia Varaksina, head of the department of the State Scientific and Pedagogical Library of Ukraine named after Sukhomlinsky. The project of Natalia and her colleague to improve the library using URAN services became one of the winners of the EYR@EaP program

The winners of Enlighten Your Research (EYR@EaP) program also faced a similar challenge. Representatives of the scientific communities that received support from the EaPConnect project and their local NREN briefly told the audience about the challenges in their work and how these challenges would be solved together with NREN.

But what about the rest?

People who are so passionate about their work can enjoy their leisure time, too. Social events also took place under the sign of a connection with culture. On the evening before the conference opening, participants were invited to an unusual concert. Using LoLa technology (from the term Low Latency) two choirs performed together in front of the audience: one of them was in Yerevan and the other in Venice. The effect was amazing, as it seemed that both teams were standing side by side, shoulder to shoulder.

The next day also gave a magical experience. The conference started with a huge cake! And there was really something to celebrate. After all, this year has had several anniversaries: 10 years of the Eastern Partnership, 25 years celebrated by the hosts of EaPEC 2019, Armenian NREN ASNET-AM, and 20 years – partners of the EaPConnect project from Moldova and Georgia, RENAM and GRENA.

In the evening guests and speakers, along with the guide, walked through the magnificent halls of Matenadaran and got acquainted with a unique collection of ancient manuscripts. Then they went to the carpet factory with Armenian colour, Megerian Carpet, and watched the manual production of carpets at all stages – from weaving to dyeing with natural dyes, haircutting and trimming – and during dinner, all enjoyed the singing and dancing of the national ensemble and even learned a dance lesson from team members.

Warm memories and experience adoption

This year, URAN Association team at EaPEC was represented by Yevhenii Preobrazhenskyi, Executive Director; Volodymyr Galagan, Project Co-Manager, and Tetiana Preobrazhenska, Marketing Specialist.

Our team was not idle. Yevhenii and Volodymyr took part in a meeting of NREN directors with EaPConnect project managers, carefully listened to all the presenters, delved into the technical nuances of using digital technologies, and questioned the speakers. Tetiana was chairing both panel sessions, and also, along with her colleagues from other Eastern Partnership countries, covered the conference on social media.

By the way, you can watch a video recording of the conference sessions on GEANTtv YouTube channel.

Impressions were unforgettable. Both from the hospitality of sunny Armenia, and from the organisational abilities of the ASNET-AM team and representatives of the EaPConnect project. We can only thank the organisers for their care, for interesting events and wonderful weather (thank you, you provided even this!). And it’s time for us to learn from successful experience, because in 2022 the EaPEC will be hosted by URAN, in Kyiv.

Images: URAN Asociation, EaPConnect