The Calligraphy, a way to understand History?
Why should we learn about the writing systems in Romania?
Researching on the writing system is a way to study a specific moment in Romanian history. However, it’s also one of the numerous approaches to understand the geographical, political and social context of Romania, thanks to the changes in the systems and alphabets.
For centuries, writing and reading were dedicated to the elites or the Church, hence research on the alphabets cannot reflect the society of the majority. However, it’s a way to understand the different influences in the country (or regions).
Nowadays, learning about the changes in alphabets can help to understand a big part of Romanian history, with a visual tool. This particular project, using a digital instrument, can be more impactful for the spectator, than a lesson or a seminar, or even a book that will just explain the different aspects around the modification of the writing systems.
How can we use the specificity of the Romanian calligraphy to learn?
The first step of this project was to discover the different types of writing systems in Romania. To give a simple historical background, the first evidence of Romanian appears in the 16th century. Even if Romanian is a Latin based language, the first writing system was using a Cyrillic alphabet. That specificity can be explained by the presence of Slavs: for the social context, a lot of Slavic populations were staying in the territory, and for the political one, the different territories of actual Romania were under the Constantinople Patriarch, who was using the Slavic liturgy. And it was during the 18th century that the change was made toward a Latin alphabet. During the two years of 1860 and 1862, numerous transitional alphabets appeared, constructed by different writers, mixing Latin and Cyrillic letters. This moment of Romania’s history and this desire to change the writing system can have a political explanation: Romania tries to separate itself from the Slavic influence and reconnect with their Latin heritage.
After the research period, comes the design of a clear and readable document. The document should appeal to the reader but also give a short historical interpretation. For the project presented here, the symmetry and clarity of the two documents were required, and so there is no justification for the choice of one particular transitional alphabet. The demonstration of a transitional alphabet was symbolically needed to show the diversity of Latin and Cyrillic letters, but also to give examples of the missing letters in the modern Romanian alphabet.
Finally, the last step is to build the document. In this project, the choice was made to write manually all the letters. This particular choice can be linked to the context of the global project, Cultural Fiesta, which requires a personal project in relation to the member’s own liking (here the calligraphy). However, manual writing is more time-consuming and some letters can be imperfect. It is possible to consider using the digital tool by scanning the letters from old documents for example.
Why and how can we use a calligraphy project in museums?
The main goal of this project in a museum is to give visitors (Romanians or foreigners), a visual tool.
To offer this project to the visitors, the museums can have two options:
- The first option is the most passive one and requires less material and resources. The museums should let free access to the different documents, for visitors to take and use as they want, inside or outside of the museum. The documents can be implemented at the entrance of the museum with an explanatory poster. However, it can be better if the museum possesses an exhibitions room that evokes that particular moment of time or even exhibitions specifically made on one of the aspects of the writing system in Romania (Church’s books, schools, etc.).
- The second option is more active and requires more organization. The museum can open workshops on how to reproduce the different alphabets and can be accompanied by a specialist able to give more historical details.
Is it then up to the visitor to use this tool to learn about this particular moment of the country’s history. The calligraphy documents are just one of the ways to be more accessible and recreational in learning history.
Cultural Fiesta is a European Solidarity Corps project implemented by Team for Youth Association.