SIEF2019 14th Congress: Santiago de Compostela, Spain
14-17 April 2019

(Arch03)
Collaborative curation: towards a slow archives movement
Location Room 05
Date and Start Time 16 Apr, 2019 at 16:30
Sessions 1

Convenors

  • Kimberly Christen (Washington State University) email
  • Guha Shankar (Library of Congress) email

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Short abstract

This panel will examine how digital tools, platforms, and processes and long-term partnerships among and between institutional professionals and Indigenous communities transform in a systematic way the archival practices and result in the representation of diverse perspectives in the public record.

Long abstract

The contours of collaboration are diverse. Histories of collection, contact, and colonialism manifest in multiple and often overlapping ways. These histories provide a foundation for relationships that can be both fruitful and fraught. By examining the transformations over long-term relationships made through diverse ways of stewarding collections and the temporal reach of collections themselves, we begin to see how archival practices from curation to access to preservation are made and unmade and woven together through long-term care. By emphasizing a slow archives practice and process we can examine the transformations of knowledge, the shifts in values, and the ways that access and use shift with diverse sets of needs. While corporate models and institutional mandates in recent decades have privileged processing speed and minimal descriptions, this panel examines slow archival models as a way to track how ethical commitments and engagements can be embedded in the structure of archives. Specifically, this panel will examine how digital tools, platforms, and processes, on the one hand, and long-term partnerships and personal communication among and between institutional professionals and indigenous community members, on the other, intervene in a systematic way in archival practices and result in the representation of diverse perspectives in the public record.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

The future of the past: privileging indigenous knowledge production in archival representation

Author: Guha Shankar (Library of Congress) email
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Short abstract

A collaboration between an US indigenous community, federal agencies and academia foregrounds native knowledge in the public archival record. The initiative highlights the importance of inter-personal relationships developed over time in order to achieve the aims of ethical archival curation.

Long abstract

Ancestral Voices is a collaborative, knowledge sharing initiative involving the Passamaquoddy Indian nation - a sovereign indigenous community in the northeastern United States, the Library of Congress - the US national library, and two digital platforms: Local Contexts - based at New York University, and Mukurtu, a content management system hosted by Washington State University. Through this innovative partnership, the historic, recorded cultural heritage of the Passamaquoddy people has been digitally recovered from obsolete wax cylinder recordings housed in the American Folklife Center's (AFC) Archives at the Library. Subsequently, the digitized recordings have been curated for access in the online environment by community members working in partnership with the scholars who developed these cutting-edge platforms as a means of centering indigenous communities' intellectual control and interpretive authority over their own cultural heritage. This presentation will examine the present-day initiative's late twentieth century antecedent - the historic Federal Cylinder Project - which was developed by the AFC as a means of making archival collections in federal and private repositories available to Native American communities to assist them in revitalizing and sustaining critical aspects of their cultural and social lifeways. The resonances and differences between the current and previous efforts illustrate how inter-personal relationships and institutional commitments to engage in ethical curatorial practices offer a corrective to the historical effacement of indigenous knowledge in research materials by placing indigenous voices and interpretations front and center in the public record.

The songline is alive in Mukurtu

Author: Kimberly Christen (Washington State University) email
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Short abstract

This presentation explores the circulation and curation of returned archival materials through relational pathways in which cultural materials are returned, reinvented, reused, and reimagined in kin and place-based networks through digital platforms and a decolonial framework of ethical engagement.

Long abstract

Exploring the creation, circulation, and curation of returned archival materials, this presentation engages with the multiple sets of grounded and relational pathways through which cultural materials are not just returned, but through the process are reinvented, reused, and reimagined in kin-based and place-based networks through digital platforms and a decolonial framework of ethical engagement. Building on the literature around digital return and the repatriation of colonial collections from museums, archives, and libraries and the related work on sovereignty, self-determination, and Indigenous governance, I posit a framework for understanding the politics of information sharing from the intersection of Indigenous systems of knowledge stewardship and territorial connections to homelands. Native legal scholar Angela Riley demonstrates how legal and social systems have normalized the taking of Indigenous peoples' lands, bodies, and sacred materials for the use of others and in doing so have legitimated cultural appropriation writ large. This taking was rationalized and mobilized through archival practices and processes. And so, it is only with these practices of taking in clear view that we can build a theory of archival return that offers instead a decolonial framework of ethical engagement and examine the use of digital platforms and tools as one part of practices of return.

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

Author: Margaret Kruesi (Library of Congress) email
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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.

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.

The oral materials national repository in México: towards an inclusive electronic open access archive

Authors: Berenice Granados Vázquez (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, ENES Morelia) email
Santiago Cortés Hernández (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, ENES Morelia) email
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Short abstract

This presentation will describe the development of the Oral Materials National Repository in Mexico: its general principles and its latest improvements, such as a GIS based application that allows the query of data from a graphical interface.

Long abstract

For over ten years, the research group of the Oral Materials National Laboratory (www.lanmo.unam.mx) has worked on the construction of a repository to store the documentation of oral discourses in Mexico. These materials, generated from very different types of field work, are often scattered and inaccessible. The Oral Materials National Repository is an open access electronic system that allows the ordered and systematic storage of this kind of archives. It is flexible enough to include materials generated from different academic perspectives and it is intended to be not only a reasearch tool, but also a reference source for the different communities that provided the oral information in the first place. This presentation will describe the general principles of this archive as well as its latest improvements, such as a GIS based application that allows the query of data from a graphical interface.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.