Why Documenting Ukraine? Bearing Witness through Culture and Scholarship

Documenting Ukraine

This is a project that centers Ukrainian intellectual work: the projects are conceived, developed, and carried out by Ukrainians, and our grantees retain full intellectual property rights to any work they produce. The same thinking underpins the archive that will ultimately result from the project: any materials contributed by people we are supporting are an important part of Ukraine’s intellectual heritage. Thus, ensuring that the archiving process foregrounds Ukrainian interests and access is a top priority for us. We have designed Documenting Ukraine this way not only because we think it is the right thing to do; we also think it is the way to glean the greatest insights into what is at stake in this war and in Ukraine more generally. Not only should Ukrainians have the right to tell their story; they are best equipped to do so.

Beyond the invaluable documentation that will come out of this project, we also see Documenting Ukraine as a way to show support for and solidarity with Ukraine’s leading intellectual and cultural figures – that is, the people who will be responsible for shaping Ukrainian society and culture for decades to come, and for telling Ukraine’s story to the world. 

We are about to mark ten months since the full-scale invasion began. The urgency of documenting the Ukrainian experience of the war remains: not only as long as the fighting continues, but even well after it is over. We have been struck repeatedly over the past months by the thoughtful, innovative, impactful work being done by Ukrainian intellectuals to create a record of this war; we are proud that the IWM, through Documenting Ukraine, is making a contribution to ensuring that they can do that work and that it can be preserved.

Culture plays a vital role in bearing witness. Many types of documentation will be important after the war. International justice will require documentation in the form of evidence of war crimes, which falls outside the scope of Documenting Ukraine – though the project does consider the experience of atrocity an important part of the record we seek to build. Documenting Ukraine is designed from the perspective of publicly-engaged historians, who recognize the importance of telling the story now, as well as creating a record that will help future generations understand what happened. The program crosses disciplines, encompassing materials from polling data to documentary film footage, from poetry to frontline reporting, from oral histories to graphic memoirs. 

The complexity and richness of the collection of projects within Documenting Ukraine can best be seen by exploring the project descriptions presented on this site. You can browse by genre, medium, theme, and geography. We are glad to be able to bring you the stories they tell.


Katherine Younger, IWM Permanent Fellow and Head of Documenting Ukraine

19 December 2022