Hidden Galleries Digital Archive
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Name of collection
Hidden Galleries Digital Archive
Provenance and cultural activities
The Hidden Galleries Digital Archive was created as one of the primary outputs of the European Research Council funded project Creative Agency and Religious Minorities: Hidden Galleries in the Secret Police Archives in Central and Eastern Europe (project no. 677355). The aim of the database is to facilitate access to aspects of material and visual culture of the religious underground located within the files of the secret police in Central and Eastern Europe.
Access to secret police archives is strictly controlled and although the public and researchers can gain access, the collections are not easily searchable by topic, theme or time period, and hence locating materials such as confiscated religious items, photographs, brochures, drawings and diaries is extremely difficult and time-consuming. Relevant visual and textual materials produced by the secret police in course of their operations and surveillance work are also difficult to locate.
Featuring rarely seen and difficult to locate materials, the Digital Archive is designed to encourage comparative, cross-cultural research on creative responses to repression in the twentieth century as well as serving to reconnect religious communities with aspects of their lost cultural and sacred patrimony. The collection features photographs, icons, brochures, drawings, letters hymns and diaries confiscated from banned religious communities as well as secret police representations of the religious underground in the form of photographs, maps, illustrations and network schemes designed to incriminate and visualise the hidden and secretive enemies of the state.
The archive has a regional scope and is designed to greater enable cross-cultural and transnational research on the creative practices and material culture of religious groups that operated illegally or under strict state supervision. As of April 2019, the Archive contains materials from the following institutions:
- Historical Archives of the Hungarian State Security (Állambiztonsági Szolgálatok Történeti Levéltára)
- National Council for the Study of the Securitate Archives (Consiliul Național pentru Studierea Arhivelor Securității)
- National Archives of Romania (Arhivele Naționale ale României)
- National Archives of the Republic of Moldova (Archiva Națională a Republicii Moldova)
- The Archives of the Information and Security Services of the Republic of Moldova (Arhiva Serviciului de Informații și Securitate al Republicii Moldova)
- Archive of SBU Office in Odeska Oblast (Управлiння Служби безпеки України в Одеськiй областi)
- The Archive of the SBU Office in Odeska Oblast (Архів Управлiння Служби безпеки України в Одеськiй областi)
- The State Archives Of Odessa Region (Державний Архів Одеської Області)
- State Archive Branch of the Security Services of Ukraine (Галузевий державний архів Служби безпеки України)
All the materials in the Archive were collected and curated by the Hidden Galleries team: James Kapaló, the Principal Investigator, and Kinga Povedák, Ágnes Hesz, Anca Șincan, Tatiana Vagramenko (IRC postdoctoral researcher), Iuliana Cindrea, Igor Cașu and Dumitru Lisnic. The project team was assisted by researchers and archivists working in the institutions listed above. The Digital Archive, which will continue to expand as the project progresses with the anticipated inclusion of materials from additional countries in the region.This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme No . 677355.
Description of content
The materials and narratives presented in the archive, that in many cases have not been preserved elsewhere, relate to the religious lives of ordinary members of minority communities under totalitarianism. Unlike other collections, the Hidden Galleries Archive focuses intentionally focuses on grass-roots religius phenomenon, rather than on Church hierarchs, mainstream institutions or leaders. In this way, the Hidden Galleries Archive captures aspects of everyday resistance and agency during totalitarianism. The selected materials offer a vivid picture of the creative ways in which illegal and underground religious groups responded to state repression and control of the religious field.
The Hidden Galleries Archive is indicative with the selected examples designed to demonstrate the kinds materials produced by and about religious minorities that are located within secret police files. The Archive presents example of devotional art, community photography, religious manuscripts, confiscated items and hidden religious spaces. It does not constitute a comprehensive record of all such materials in any particular archive or archive folder (as this would be vast), but rather a tool to enable researchers to locate files that contain confiscated cultural materials and to demonstrate the significance of such materials for comparative research on the history and anthropology of religions and cultural production in Eastern Europe during the twentieth century.
- applied arts objects (folk art, decorative arts, etc.): 10-99
- artifacts: 10-99
- graphics: 0-9
- manuscripts (ego-documents, diaries, notes, letters, drafts, etc.): 10-99
- paintings: 0-9
- photos: 10-99
- publications (books, newspapers, articles, press clippings): 10-99
Geographical scope of recent operation
Date of founding
Place of founding
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- completely open to the public
Author(s) of this page
- Kapaló, James
- Povedák, Kinga
- Scheibner, Tamás
- Vagramenko, Tatiana