House finder app for the 1846 Rohatyn cadastral map

Information Points Digital Project

Introduction

Not everyone can visit Rohatyn in person, and the history of people and places in town is too large for signs and other physical information points. This website is a key online resource to supplement the physical sites, documenting the heritage projects as well as the history of the Jewish community in Rohatyn and its descendants around the world. It should also serve as a gathering point for program supporters and anyone with an interest in the town. But we are also employing social media to spread the word, and welcome any other remote engagement in our very local work.

The goals of the Information Points Digital Project are to:

  • develop and maintain an open website with information about the heritage projects, reference information about the past Jewish community of Rohatyn, and access to external data
  • develop and maintain a database of recovered Rohatyn Jewish headstones and fragments
  • explore computer applications to enhance and promote the heritage work
  • adapt the web materials for use in languages which will bridge the several cultures with interest in the Jewish past of Rohatyn

Overall project cost estimate: $249/year. Total funds allocated to date: $325.
Overall project timeline: July 2015 thru June 2018. Project progress: ~35% complete.

No money has been raised for this work; program funds will be allocated to maintain the website only. All development work is contributed by volunteers, at no cost to the program.

Background

This website is the primary object of the Information Points Digital Project; it is still in development, and we anticipate we will always be making additions, posting news updates, and refining plans, data, and histories. The size of the overall Rohatyn Jewish Heritage program is large compared to the individuals who interact with it, as volunteers and as interested followers; we realized some time ago that we needed a stable and accessible information point where we could build the program part-time while living our lives, without losing ground when we step away from the heritage work – and that stability is already helping.

In addition to the website, we plan to build databases for specific tasks, such as the headstone recovery work, and we hope to add active capabilities to enhance our analysis of the headstone fragments and to guide visitors to Rohatyn through the key sites of Jewish history and heritage there.

Project Concept

Development of this website and its related databases addresses the key program objectives of memorial and education, and provides a both a point of first contact for Internet visitors and a collecting point the assembly of data, images, and educational resources.

The project includes these elements:

  • development and maintenance of an open website on the Rohatyn Jewish Heritage program, its projects, and its information resources
  • providing contact and process information for web visitors who wish to support the program
  • development of a database and suitable tools to record and display information about each of the recovered matzevot fragments in the Jewish Headstone Recovery Project
  • preliminary research into possible computer-based applications to supplement and interact with program data
  • manual translation of primary web pages into key target languages: Ukrainian, with the possibility of Polish and/or Hebrew

Information and resources will be added to this website as they are developed. No detailed project plan will be written, and no funding is required – this project will proceed on a volunteer basis as time permits, with a projected time period of 18 to 24 months to first full completion, targeting December 2017 to “no blank pages”. News updates, program updates, and additional information will continue thereafter based on project progress and input from others; all are welcome to contact us with ideas and links to free-use materials.

Program Information Website

Website development in progress...

Website development in progress…

This website is intended to serve primarily as a source of varied information, but also provides contact in for web visitors who have news, information, questions, and comments to share with us. “Completion” of the website will probably never occur, as some program elements are expected to continue in progress for a long while, so tracking and reporting will do the same. Begun in Autumn 2015, the website now includes draft information for all of the heritage and education project planning pages, and the news archive is complete and current, but little info yet exists online for education resources and the history pages. Initial development of all website pages is a top priority for the volunteer effort outside of Rohatyn.

The site is built on WordPress, to simplify styling and interactivity. That choice also limits some of our ability to customize the site, for example to add databases and applications, so we will explore other site options for those features when we are ready to add them.

Online Matzevah Database

This project shares the task of creating an online database of headstone fragments with the Jewish Headstone Recovery Project.

A sample of the many matzevot styles among the recovered stones

A small sample of the many matzevot styles among the recovered stones. Photos © 2011, 2012, 2014 Jay Osborn.

As the collection of recovered headstones grew in the first years of the project, two online catalogs of images were created to help us track and interpret the stones. The first was a simple photo site, with folders for stones documented on each trip to Rohatyn; as stones were moved to the cemeteries and then occasionally moved again, new photographs were taken of some of the stones. This site provided an opportunity to transcribe, translate, and discuss the individual stones in a separate forum (focused primarily on genealogy). The second catalog improved on the first by numbering each recognizable matzevot and fragment based on images, linking all images of the same stone, and linking a transcription and translation to each stone where that was available, together with the images; however, the second catalog was only accessible by members of the closed genealogy group.

Those initial efforts helped to preserve images of the fragile stones as they resurfaced, and to begin connecting the fragments with descendants of Rohatyn Jewish families. But each matzevah has many more characteristics and images to show and tell: dimensions, materials, colors, features, symbols, styles, etc. And much more can be done with a more open, academic approach to the physical data.

So the project concept proposes a true database of images, data, and metadata to record each headstone’s characteristics and images tied to a physical tag, which we hope can be permanently affixed to the stone. The database design and essential data categories are yet to be created, but to make the most of public interest by Rohatyn Jewish descendants, current Rohatyn residents, Rohatyn students and teachers, and our friends and colleagues around the world, it is clear that access to and contribution to the database must be both open and curated. Ultimately, while the features in stone slowly disappear, this will be the bet olam (house of eternity) described in the Wisdom Books.

Applications

No research has yet been done on possible computer-based applications to supplement and support the heritage and education work. However, two concepts have already been discussed; these and others will be investigated when time permits:

  • interactive mapping to explain the historical sites in relation to the modern town of Rohatyn, both for onsite visitors and for offsite study and research; an example is the 1846 Rohatyn cadastral map house finder, originally developed by and for the RSRG, which could be expanded to include historical data about the residents of each of the homes on the map
  • a tool to aid in matching separate headstone fragments from the same stone, as a supplement to the online matzevot database

Specific plans for this element of the project will not be created until the initial research has been started, perhaps in late 2017.

Languages Strategy

Communication is a key challenge to the program. The history and peoples of Rohatyn make it especially so, as noted in the Educational Resources Project: all of the several languages once used by Rohatyners in the past are still in use by residents or descendants today, but in general none of the interested groups speaks as many languages as they did when they were neighbors in Rohatyn. We are creating most of this website in English, increasingly a dominant language on the Internet, but to share with all of the people most interested in our work we need to reach out in other languages, particularly Ukrainian. The current strategy is to create duplicate pages on the site in two or more languages, as direct translation so that the same information is available in each language version. We hope that volunteers will assist with some of the translation work from and to English, but we have already hired several translators for portions of this site.

Planning

The structure and strategy for development of the main Rohatyn Jewish Heritage website is complete, and all work is currently likely to be performed by volunteers; costs are currently limited to lightweight web hosting only.

Planning has not yet begun for the online matzevot database or for any possible applications to be developed in support of the heritage and education work, and no costs have been forecast.

Current Status and Issues

As of Spring 2017, the primary web site has been established and published, and roughly half of the key pages have been completed in at least draft form. The volunteer efforts on this project will continue in 2017 and 2018, ahead of or in parallel with work on other projects in the program.