The Digitization of the Zagorski Experiment Archives and the Creation of the Electronic Library of Knowledge

 

With the support of the Art, Science and Sport Charity Foundation the Deaf-blind Support Fund So-edinenie has introduced one of the largest initiatives of the “Education and Science” programme; a project aimed at digitizing the Zagorski experiment archives and creating a digital library of knowledge.

The key tasks of the project are to create fertile conditions for the revival of research into deaf-blindness at scientific and pedagogical schools, and to develop a sustainable system for preserving and sharing information obtained in this field.

The history of the digitization of the “Zagorski” archives began in 2014, when the Deaf-blind Support Fund So-edinenie discovered a priceless body of work by Ivan Sokolianskii and Alexander Meshcheriakov, the founders of a worldwide school of teaching deaf-blind people. Tens of thousands of the works were in poor condition. Piles of dusty boxes, including many materials never published before (recorded observations of legendary Soviet pathologists, drafts of articles, correspondence, etc.) were resting in the offices of current employees at the Institute of Correctional Pedagogy, and some of them were stored in private homes and cottages.

The scientists were engaging in unique research before and during the experiment of Zagorski in 60s and 70s. Back then, the results of the work saw four deaf-blind students at the Zagorski Orphanage (now Sergiev Posad Deaf-blind Children’s Home) make outstanding progress, go on to enter the psychological faculty of Moscow State University, graduate and have successful careers.

Currently more than 80 thousand documents, once the foundation for these achievements and stepping stones to the future, have been brought together, classified, digitized and made available on the internet. They have special value for physicians, educators, researchers, historians and students who study the phenomenon of deaf-blindness, and for people who suffer from disabilities, their families and loved ones.

The platform the files are stored on has over 60 parameters for accessing and editing the collections. Thanks to the sophisticated navigation system, visitors can freely use the extensive data, search for specific files by name and annotations. The original sources are available in the form of scanned, high-resolution digital copies that are easy to enlarge and view in detail, and can be printed off or downloaded to hard drive.

A museum of the history of teaching deaf-blind children was opened under the project. It is located in the Sergiev Posad Children’s Home, the only institution in the country that has been specifically educating pupils with dual sensory impairment for over 50 years. The museum not only stores documents, but also artefacts from the personal collections of Russian scientists, reports on the Company’s pre-revolutionary care of deaf-blind people, digitized non-fiction films and correspondence between Ivan Sokolianskii, Anton Makarenko, Maxim Gorky and others.

To make this knowledge available more than 5,000 books were published. This includes a monograph on “The History of Teaching Deaf-blind People in Russia”, an anthology of literary works by deaf-blind people called “I Am Alive: The Diary of a Deaf-blind Person”, a collection from the International Conference on the Problems Faced by Deaf-blind People, which for the first time in 15 years was held in Russia and hosted more than 300 participants from 17 countries, and others.

The Art, Science and Sport Charity Foundation has been cooperating with the Deaf-blind Support Fund So-edinenie since 2014, supporting it in starting its programs and projects.

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