Accepted paper:

Slow archives enhancements of catalog descriptions of Native American recordings -- a case study


Margaret Kruesi (Library of Congress)

Paper short abstract:

This case study describes the process and value of adding of contextual description to catalog records of Native American audio recordings at the American Folklife Center, Library of Congress, where archivists are committed to an ongoing collaborative project with Passamaquoddy community leaders.

Paper long abstract:

Beginning in 2006, staff at the American Folklife Center have supported the Protocols for Native American Archival Materials, which were finally adopted as an "outside standard" by the Society of American Archivists in the summer of 2018, after much discussion about conflicts of values - the value of staff time, of minimal processing, minimal description, privileging "usage" over preservation vs. the value of community curation and community control of Native American cultural heritage materials.

The "Ancestral Voices" project at the American Folklife Center is a collaborative project to add contextual description to archival catalog records of 1890s recordings of Passamaquoddy speech and songs, as well as to existing collection descriptions of other Native American recordings at the Library of Congress. Adding Passamaquoddy translations, interpretations, cultural history, and indigenous knowledge to standard MARC catalog records is slow but rewarding because of the conversation taking place over months on multiple occasions, including face-to-face meetings. Contributing to "slowness" are technical limitations of updating MARC records on an iterative basis in a Voyager database (the Library of Congress catalog) that was not designed for flexible manipulation of records, and which must also deliver the digital audio files to the Library's web site.

Our commitment to this process lies in its inherent value (not relative values)-- in the belief that the differences we are making and the process of continuing collaboration may aid cultural and language survival for people to whom it matters the most.

panel Arch03
Collaborative curation: towards a slow archives movement