Accepted Paper:

Interrogating Invisibility: Insights from Creating a Nuxalk Digital Archive of Museum Belongings  

Author:

Emily Leischner (University of British Columbia)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores what the process of creating an Indigenous-controlled archive of museum objects can offer discourses on invisibility in 1) challenging assumptions about the invisibility of settler colonial ideologies within archival processes and 2) how object meanings can be made visible.

Paper long abstract:

Writing on Indigenous-initiated and Indigenous-directed work to document and organize their belongings online is significantly underrepresented in published literature. While museums, universities and partnering institutions are increasingly collaborating on digital initiatives with Indigenous communities, the resulting projects necessarily involve compromise between parties working with often different goals, publics, ontologies and epistemologies. Understanding and evaluating the meaning, value and success of these types of digital heritage archival projects that Indigenous peoples control at all levels is essential, and to move forward in this field without the inclusion of such knowledge would be problematic and inadequate for addressing the decolonizing aims of this work.

The Cultural Stewardship Office of the Nuxalk Nation in Bella Coola, British Columbia has started to compile a digital database of belongings from their territory to bring together objects that are still disparately located in various museums across the continent. Their goal is to create a searchable catalogue of heritage objects designed solely for community access. While this project is ongoing, it already offers significant contributions to conversations on decolonizing archives and museum collections databases. This paper explores what the process of creating an Indigenous-controlled archive of museum objects can offer discourses on invisibility in 1) challenging assumptions about the invisibility of settler colonial ideologies within archival processes and 2) how object meanings can be made visible.

Panel P017
Seeing Past the Settler Gaze: Objects and Objectivity in the Post-Colonial Archive