The first public database dedicated to the centralization of child protection institutions that operated in socialist Romania and in the first post-communist decade.
𝐇𝐀𝐑𝐓𝐀 𝐀𝐁𝐀𝐍𝐃𝐎𝐍𝐔𝐋𝐔𝐈 [Abandonment Map] was born out of an emergency. More than 30 years after the fall of the communist regime, the number of children who lived in the protection system is still unknown.
𝐇𝐀𝐑𝐓𝐀 𝐀𝐁𝐀𝐍𝐃𝐎𝐍𝐔𝐋𝐔𝐈 responds to a need for memorial and historical recovery of the phenomenon of the institutionalization of children during the communist period and was built according to rigorous archival criteria, with photographic or written documents, discovered in unknown, personal and institutional archives, which at the moment do not exist in the public space.
In the pilot stage, which we are launching in November 2023, 100 of the 770 institutions we have discovered in all Romanian counties will be active on the Abandonment Map, with over 550 associated images. In the next year, after research and processing, the entire archive that the MA team has been working on for almost two years will be gradually uploaded to www.muzeulabandonului.ro. This archive brings together a tangible and intangible heritage of abandonment histories, made up of over 20,000 photographs, documents, objects, and testimonies.
The archive was obtained after an 18-month documentation and digitization effort. The process was carried out with the support of dozens of student volunteers, who scanned the archives made available to us by the SERA Romania, Romanian Angel Appeal, Hope and Homes for Children Foundations, organizations active in humanitarian assistance immediately after the fall of communism and more than in the reform of the child protection system. The images in the archive are supplemented by documentary materials collected during the museum’s current research campaigns, as well as digital donations received from survivors, system employees and partner associations.
“Every time I press the publish button for a new file, I think that, somewhere out there, a former institutionalized child is looking online for images or information about the center where he grew up,” says journalist Ana Maria Ciobanu, who has been contributing to the research work of the Museum, documenting the institution sheets for the Abandonment Map, defining the terms of the Dictionary or unraveling the history of the protection system. “I imagine the surprise he might have to discover the Museum as a treasure that might contain fragments of his identity and childhood. Many of the children who were institutionalized during the communist period and whom I interviewed as adults do not even have a photo from their childhood. I think we owe it to them to recover the memory of these hundreds of thousands of children who grew up in overcrowded institutions that we have tried to forget as a society but which left deep traces.”
About the Museum of Abandonment:
Museum of Abandonment. The digital and participatory museum forum is an independent project initiated by the Q-Arts Association that aims to map the culture of abandonment and reproduce a historical narrative of the phenomenon of abandonment and institutionalization of children in Romania.
The Museum of Abandonment was awarded in 2022 at the Awards Gala of the National Cultural Fund Administration (AFCN) with the Award for Social Inclusion and Intercultural Dialogue and at the Civil Society Gala with three First Awards in the sections Art and Culture, Social Impact, Communication Campaigns on Themes social.
Cover photo: The children’s bedroom in the former dormitory-school at Miclăușeni Castle, image from the archive of the SERA Romania Foundation