Chronicle

Digitalized Diaries
4 July 2018
The practice of documenting one’s life and writing oneself into history has undergone a radical transformation in the past decades: there has been a shift from paper diaries to Live Journal and then to Facebook. Nevertheless, the hand-written impressions and experiences of people who lived through the tumultuous 20th century are being brought to digital life thanks to the cooperation of historians, museum workers, editors, journalists, and web-developers. 

Prozhito, or Lived Through, is a nonprofit, volunteer-driven project aimed at processing diaries and personal documents and putting them online. It was launched in the spring of 2015 and as of July 2018 featured publications in Russian (documents of 2,281 people), Ukrainian (54 authors, including Holodomor witnesses, participants in insurgent movements, politicians, and cultural figures), and English (3,340 notes of Samuel Pepys, English naval administrator and Member of Parliament, celebrated for his famous diary, which gives a fascinating picture of everyday life in Restoration London from 1660 to 1669). The Prozhito site has a separate page for each diarist with its status indicated, for example “text needed”, “editor needed”, “work in progress”, “uploaded”, etc. Therefore, volunteers get to choose the materials they want to work with.

The project has already attracted over 500 enthusiasts. They search for and copy manuscripts and published diaries, work in archives, digitize, type and proof-read texts, prepare them for publication on the site, which is followed by tagging and commenting. They also practice a digital lab format: people who signed up for an event process a specific document together and prepare it for publication. The initiators of the Prozhito platform believe that each diary has value and will eventually find its editor, researcher, or reader.   
The project is open to cooperation proposals and voluntary help. For further information, write to prozhito@gmail.com.

Photo from the Prozhito site