The overall aim of SUN is to create an international, voluntary support network, through which Ukrainian open-air museums, experimental archaeologists, ancient craft experts and living history interpreters can generate and consolidate the fiscal, managerial and knowledge-based resources to flourish, now and post-war.


         Our grassroots network began as most things do – as an idea. Through constructive dialogue and with a foundation firmly rooted in mutual respect, the network has already achieved several important milestones towards shaping a viable framework for capacity-building in the Ukrainian cultural heritage sector.


         What began with zoom meetings between team members quickly evolved into a clear three-stage strategy:


     Stage 1: The first physical meeting of Ukrainian and international team members, hosted by EXARC at the 13th Experimental Archaeology Conference in Torún, Poland, in May 2023. This meeting was a vital step towards consolidating the network’s potential and from here, a series of online and hybrid events was developed.
These included:

-          An online gathering of Ukrainian open-air museum directors, with participation from colleagues in Lithuania, the Netherlands and Poland: The first meeting of its kind, this initial gathering in June 2023 allowed for the establishment of connections in an otherwise fractured work environment, while also rapidly identifying urgent areas in need of collaboration and support.

-          One key area identified was Ukraine’s rich – but threatened – maritime cultural heritage. As a first step towards mapping the field’s strengths and weaknesses, an online meeting was held with participation from Ukrainian museums, heritage centres, living history groups and craft specialists with two keynote papers from EXARC (focused on experimental archaeology’s potential) and the Viking Ship Museum in Denmark (presenting the Museum’s work with maritime cultural heritage and experimental archaeology).

-          Both of these meetings, and several subsequent events held at various open-air museums and cultural reserves in Ukraine over the summer of 2023, paved the way for the implementation of steps towards capacity-building in stage 2.

Stage 2: The primary focus of this stage was developing and hosting a two-day, hybrid conference entitled, ‘Ancient shipping and ship-building: issues of research, reconstruction and potential for the development of tourism’, which was held at the open-air museum, Ostvytsia, near Lviv, in September 2023.

The conference was a resounding success. Archaeologists, museum staff, independent researchers, craft specialists, and outreach and education staff gathered at Ostvytsia for two productive days of lectures, hands-on workshops, discussion and sailing.

They were joined online by colleagues from EXARC and the Viking Ship Museum and the event underlined what SUN already knew – there is an incredible drive and determination on the ground in Ukraine to use this time to develop and enhance the cultural sector and to position cultural heritage as a key element of Ukrainian identity, society and economy going forward.

You can find a review of the conference here. 

Stage 3: The primary focus of this stage is to begin the practical work of capacity-building on the ground in Ukraine. To this end, SUN is currently developing a project entitled, ‘Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Ambassadors Programme (UCHAP): training the next generation of heritage professionals’.

The main aim of UCHAP is to equip Ukrainian school leavers and tertiary level students with the knowledge and skills required for future employment in the cultural heritage sector. 

UCHAP’s ambassador scheme is focussed on school leavers and tertiary-level students from 4 regions of Ukraine, including 5 universities. School leavers and students are perhaps the most forgotten groups of society affected by Russia’s war in Ukraine. We see this generation as key stakeholders in Ukraine’s future and the fight to protect and preserve its cultural heritage. 

We will run 2 x 10 day-long camps for 40 participants (July; August) at NGO Chorna Galych. Ambassadors will be trained in diverse traditional and sustainable crafts, management and public engagement as well as digital technologies for the cultural heritage sector. The UCHAP Ambassador Programme will: 

  • protect heritage craft knowledge and promote its dissemination;
  • empower youth, provide transferable skills and career opportunities;
  • unite scientists, museum staff, teachers, volunteers and crafts specialists;
  • expand inter-regional networks within Ukraine and European/UK partners; 
  • foster collegiality and a sense of belonging, recognised as important for wellbeing

 Follow the SUN  Facebook page for regular updates.

Since the establishment of SUN in 2022, with founding partners Chorna Galych, the YEAR Centre and EXARC, the team has been expanded to:

- consolidate expertise within professional higher education and museum contexts.

- expand the network regionally within Europe to draw on specific areas of expertise.

- create connections between Ukrainian cultural heritage practitioners, both at home and abroad.

- develop a viable and sustainable working model for the network, in the short, medium and long-term.

Meet the SUN team
Dr. Aimée Little (UK)

 Senior Lecturer in Archaeology, University of York - Leads network, strategy & management, co-leads funding, education, wellbeing and communication

Yarema Ivantsiv (UA)

 Head of NGO Chorna Galych - Leads the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Network, co-leads strategy, funding & management, education, communication.

Dr. Matilda Siebrecht (DE)

Director of EXARC - Leads the International Experimental Archaeology Network and external communication, co-leads on strategy, management & funding.

Dr. Roeland Paardekooper (DK).

Advisor to EXARC - Leads Living History and Crafts network, co-leads open-air museum network and international communication. 

Dr. Steph Piper (UK)

Lecturer in Archaeology, University of York - Leads education, communication and wellbeing.

Dr.Tríona Sørensen (DK)

Researcher at the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, Denmark - Leads the Open-Air Museum Network, co-leads strategy, funding and communication (website, social media), education.

Dr. Jess Bates (UK)

Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of York - Leads day to day management, co-leads education.

Dr. Olga Zagorodnia (UK)

Researcher at the British Museum - Leads the Ukrainian Academic Institution Network, co-leads communication (translations, website and social media) and education.