We were fortunate to have Kyra Fortier, FirstVoices Coordinator and Trainer at First Peoples’ Cultural Council (FPCC), join us during our 2019 Indigitization Training Week to give an informative presentation on FirstVoices. We recorded the presentation and are sharing it here for everyone who couldn’t be there for the presentation, and for those who are new to FirstVoices or are hearing about it for the first time. Please visit their websites to learn more about FirstVoices and the First Peoples’ Cultural Council.
Check out this great interview with Indigitization Program Manager Sarah Dupont, created by iSchool students Monique DuPlessis, Eleri Staiger and Nick Ubels as part of Dr. Richard Arias-Hernandez’s LIBR 581 Digital Libraries class. The video was submitted for a Digital Libraries and Archives News Report assignment.
*** This article original appeared in BCLA Perspectives.
By Allison Jones.
Over the past year, Indigitization has tripled its social media audience and provoked thoughtful online conversations on themes such as decolonization and open access. These successes have been achieved through the use of Twitter threads, which provide in-depth commentary on hot topics and build a community of engaged and interested information professionals wanting to learn, share ideas, and change their institutions and profession for the better. This article describes Indigitization’s new approach, provides examples of successful Twitter threads, and shares transferable lessons to encourage other libraries, archives, and information organizations to consider how they could start their own big conversations on Twitter and realise similar rewards.
Indigitization is a B.C. based collaborative initiative between Indigenous communities and organizations, the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre (UBC), the Museum of Anthropology, Northern BC Archives (UNBC), and the UBC iSchool. It facilitates capacity building in Indigenous information management, specifically by supporting Indigenous community organizations to digitize audio cassettes by providing training workshops, maintaining a digitization toolkit, and funding digitization projects (Dupont, 2016).
Since January 2018, Indigitization has revamped its social media presence, shifting away from a focus on broadcasting information to passive followers and towards a more reciprocal model of sharing ideas. Indigitization now prioritizes using social media to share and discuss its experience, awareness, and knowledge of Indigenous information practices with others in a more engaging and interactive way.
To do so, Indigitization began responding to hot topics in the news or under examination at conferences in Twitter threads of about 10-15 tweets. As Indigitization’s Twitter audience consists mainly of information professionals and academics, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, Indigitization’s role on this platform is different than when working with Indigenous community partners, who tend to be more active on Facebook. In these threads, Indigitization offers opinions and expertise that challenge non-Indigenous academic and information organizations to consider and improve their approaches to Indigenous knowledge and Indigenous communities’ needs. Primarily, this means discussing the impacts of colonialism in the information professions.
Offering this kind of commentary required Indigitization to change how it prepares social media content. Instead of posts independently written by student employees, Indigitization developed a collaborative writing processes involving the organization’s steering committee in order to effectively share their knowledge and experience. As a result, the typical writing process for one of Indigitization’s threads now involves the following steps:
- Student employees identify a topic and draft a thread about it from Indigitization’s perspective;
- Steering committee members revise the draft thread, offering additional commentary and resources based on their expertise;
- Final approval of the thread is given by a steering committee member; and
- Student employees post the thread to Twitter and monitor it for responses and feedback, forwarding any major concerns or questions back to the appropriate steering committee member for input.
This process produces insightful content that is strengthened through the inclusion of multiple perspectives. Furthermore, it is an opportunity for student employees to learn from the feedback and input of steering committee members and to apply these lessons in future writing and work for Indigitization.
A Common Theme: “Decolonizing” Libraries and Archives
Two of Indigitization’s most popular threads have focused on the meaning of decolonization. While “decolonization” is often used to describe efforts by non-Indigenous organizations to understand and incorporate Indigenous perspectives into their work, this is a misunderstanding of the concept. As emphasized by Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang (2012) in their influential article, Decolonization is not a Metaphor, “decolonization in the settler context must involve the repatriation of land simultaneous to the recognition of how land and relations to land have always already been differently understood and enacted” (p. 7, emphasis added). Decolonization is unsettling, literally and figuratively, and where it is happening in information organizations it is being led by Indigenous people. The misuse and misunderstanding of “decolonization” is a topic that Indigitization is well-versed in, and thus it has formed the root of the two Twitter threads described below.
The first thread was in response to a CTV News article titled “Archivists look to ‘decolonize’ Canada’s memory banks” (Canadian Press, 2018). This article had many oversights and errors in its understanding of decolonization of archives, including its choice to centre the work of non-Indigenous organizations, ignoring the leadership of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, Xwi7xwa Library, and others. Indigitization’s thread examined some of the inaccuracies and omissions in the article in a transparent and thorough way, making this critique available to other information professionals, Indigenous peoples, and journalists writing on this topic. While acknowledging that Libraries and Archives Canada (LAC) is trying to do good work, Indigitization wanted to be sure that people reading this article understood the context in which LAC’s so-called “decolonizing” initiatives are taking place.
The thread received numerous positive replies, retweets, and comments from Indigitization’s colleagues in aligned organizations and professions. Not only did these peers like and retweet Indigitization’s commentary, they themselves added new perspectives and enhanced the commentary, sharing resources, and boosting Indigitization’s message to their own networks. By sharing this thread, Indigitization had made a significant shift in its Twitter approach and was no longer broadcasting about what it was doing but was engaging with others in discussing why and how it was doing this work.
In April 2018, after the Society of American Archivists (SAA) shared “Decolonize” as their “Word of the Week”, Indigitization posted another thread discussing the meaning of this term and the weaknesses of the SAA’s definition. Indigitization acknowledged the value of SAA talking about decolonization, especially with its influence in the archival community, but also highlighted that this was an example of an organization with good intentions failing to realize their own blind spots on an issue. The definition that the SAA shared contained many common misconceptions about decolonization, which Indigitization responded to in its thread. Indigitization also encouraged its audience to share their feedback with the SAA. Indigitization later received a reply from the SAA noting that they would be considering the feedback they received and revising their definition.
These examples demonstrate that although a topic may seem large and daunting to discuss in the short form offered by Twitter, it is in fact possible to start a big conversation in a few characters. In particular, if you are looking to influence or effect change in a medium-sized organization such as LAC or SAA, Twitter is a good place to start. Organizations of that size notice when they are being discussed on social media, and Twitter allows you to demonstrate that others also care about and potentially share your perspective on an issue.
Indigitization’s experience offers a number of key lessons for other information organizations considering how to revitalize their social media presence, spark big conversations, and influence the information profession. By shifting out of broadcast mode and focusing on engagement, organizations can see major positive outcomes on Twitter. Here are three key transferrable lessons from Indigitization’s experience to keep in mind if your organization decides to engage in more big conversations on Twitter.
First, the numbers show unambiguously that this approach attracted and engaged followers. Over the first five months, Indigitization’s number of Twitter followers doubled, and the number of people viewing Indigitization’s tweets grew by 500% (see Figure 1). This second trend cooled off somewhat in May as Indigitization was less active on social media during the summer, indicating a correlation between meaningful content and attention. The lesson here is simple: by identifying your organization’s areas of expertise and sharing your thoughts on them, you will engage and inspire your existing followers and attract new ones. People will want to learn from you on the topics you know best.
Second, Tweets do not have to be the final word on a topic. Indigitization’s threads prioritized sharing the work of Indigenous information professionals and scholars, and provided links for people to learn more if they were interested. This can be reassuring as you approach a big topic on Twitter. Linking to others’ work is also an opportunity to build relationships with key thinkers in your field and demonstrate that you are listening to what they have to offer. These relationships increase the chances that they will find ways to support your work as well. Indigitization’s new Twitter relationships have blossomed into offline connections, including invitations to speak at conferences where wider audiences may be exposed to Indigenous perspectives on information practices for the first time.
Third, social media moves quickly. Indigitization had to be on the ball to notice what topics were emerging and prepare a response before something was yesterday’s news. The new collaborative editing process described above helped Indigitization generate strong content, but the team could not spend weeks going back-and-forth. In order to get things out in a timely manner, it should be clear who decides when something is ready. For Twitter, good, timely content is better than perfect irrelevant content.
Overall, the time and energy that it takes to engage in big conversations on Twitter is well worth it for Indigitization. Since changing their strategy, the organization’s audience grew, it pushed influential organizations to reconsider how they are addressing decolonization, and Indigitization is now more deeply connected on- and offline. In future, Indigitization hopes to expand this success on other social media platforms and with a wider range of audiences beyond information professionals and academics–for example, using Facebook to support Indigenous community partners’ work in enduring and meaningful ways. To stay relevant on social media, organizations should reflect on what big conversations they wish to start within the library and information field and considering using Twitter as a venue to do so.
Canadian Press. (2018, February 19). Archivists look to “decolonize” Canada’s memory banks. CTV News. Retrieved from https://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/archivists-look-to-decolonize-canada-s-memory-banks-1.3809132
Dupont, S. (2016, January 31). News from UBC’s Indigitization program. BCLA Perspectives. Retrieved from https://bclaconnect.ca/perspectives/2016/01/31/news-from-ubcs-indigitization-program/
Tuck, E., & Yang, K. W. (2012). Decolonization is not a metaphor. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society, 1(1), 1–40.
Allison Jones is a MLIS Candidate at the UBC iSchool and works as a Program and Digital Engagement Assistant with Indigitization as well as a Student Librarian at North Vancouver District Public Library. They are interested in community-led librarianship, Indigenous information practices, social movement history and education, and teen and adult services, and blog about these and other things at https://allisonlouisejones.wordpress.com/.
*** This post originally appeared at https://www.ubyssey.ca/culture/decolonizing-information-with-Indigitization/
By Darby Lynch.
Indigenous groups across BC have an opportunity to receive grant money for their local archival needs due to a groundbreaking project run through several institutions at UBC and the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC).
Since 2010, this project, titled “Indigitization,” has provided interested communities access to information and technology for the preservation of their important records through digitization.
Unfortunately, when many records were made decades ago, they were recorded on corrodible technologies like cassette tapes or old-school film reels. These technologies were useful at the time, but much information has since been lost due to natural destruction of the materials.
This initiative between the Irving K. Barber Library, the Museum of Anthropology (MOA), UBC’s School for Library, Archival and Information Studies and the Northern BC Archives at UNBC can grant up to $10,000 in matching funds to each community. There are a few government efforts that also work on digitizing Indigenous records such as the Library and Archives Canada (LAC) Digitization project, but Indigitization has distinguished itself by utilizing “community-led projects.”
“Funding practices have been biased towards us as colonial institutions,” said Gerry Lawson, coordinator of the Oral History Language Lab at MOA and a leader of Indigitization, “so we’re really trying to build a community of practice, a community of people who do this and make UBC [as an institution] less important over time. I think we’re accomplishing that.”
Lawson said that the LAC Digitization project grant money “is coming out of Canada’s language funding for Indigenous communities.” A lot of this money isn’t going directly to communities.
However, he adds that the LAC has also started programs like the Documentary Heritage Communities Program that are “really based around small heritage organizations locally.”
Indigitization subverts this colonized system by “facilitating that self-empowerment in terms of taking control of their technology” and breaks down the barriers Indigenous communities are still facing by enabling their proprietary. Traditional information will be handled by the people who actually own it.
“There’s a lot of digitization programs out there,” explained UNBC Archivist Erica Hernandez-Read. “But the problem with them is that they require that the information that has been digitized be made publicly accessible. And so that’s the problem, that’s the issue right there. You can’t do that. Not in a First Nations context.”
Indigitization gives communities the option to publish or keep their information private. Throughout most of the projects, communities have chosen to keep their information private. Some Indigenous groups have approached UNBC to store backup information on hard-drives without giving the university access, a rare request for archives to accept.
The steering committee, which currently only consists of two schools, is working on recruiting more institutions across the country and though they “haven’t had any biters yet,” they’re “forever hopeful,” said Hernandez-Read. Lawson said that the point of enlisting more institutions is “not about making a hierarchy or about franchising, it’s really about sort of just spreading resources and spreading a method of doing things.”
Hernandez-Read also emphasized that “it’s not that people aren’t interested, the interest is there, it’s the money.” However, if a group is interested in this initiative for their own community and can’t get a grant, the project has published a freely accessible “Indigitization Toolkit,” which gives technical instructions for how to digitize information up to national standards.
“I think we’re sort of trying to build our own community, to give people the best advice that we can. The funding it seems is probably going to be coming from different places … so the landscape will probably change quite a bit in the next little while,” said Lawson, who was hopeful about Indigitization and similar models becoming more prevalent in the future. “The information practices have to change.”
The 2019 Indigitization Grant Cycle is currently open, with applications due December 10. All information can be found in the grant section of their website, http://www.indigitization.ca.
***This article originally appeared on ctlt.ubc.ca.
By Emi Sasagawa.
“This year, many Canadians are celebrating the 150th anniversary of Canada. For them, the development of Canada from a colony to an independent nation is the story of the emergence of a democratic nation exceptional in both its history and promise. That is, however, a history that looks very different to many Indigenous people in Canada, who view the growth of the Canada and its people as a story of dispossession, repression and hardship.”
— Linc Kesler, from his exhibit introduction statement
The Aboriginal Un-History Month exhibition, which was on display this year from June to the end of August at the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, brought together Indigenous work, resources and collaborations from across campus. Additionally, this year’s exhibit held a space for those who passed by to consider the juxtaposition of our current location, historical context and social relations. According to Sarah Dupont, the Aboriginal Engagement Librarian at UBC, the annual event is a good way to showcase the conversations that are happening at UBC and highlight the ongoing relationships, projects and collaborations that extend past UBC Point Grey campus.
Some of the annual event’s consistent partners have been the Native Youth Program (NYP), the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology (CTLT) and the Musqueam First Nation.
The concept of (un)history has been used by the team to challenge the designation of Aboriginal History Month that the Canadian government has granted to the month of June. This designation, while an important measure to recognize Indigenous people in Canada, also contributes to the persistence of a stereotype that Indigenous Canadians’ role in nation building was only a historic one. This year’s theme, Whose 150? challenged this stereotype and created a space for people to contemplate this question.
The origin of this year’s exhibit
According to Dupont, the process of putting the exhibition together is always creative. “The exhibition takes place in the Learning Centre, where many people walk through the space on their way to study, to work, to use computers, or have coffee. This space, therefore, is an important contributor to the sharing of the ideas and stories in the exhibition with those who might not otherwise actively seek out to engage with these topics through a museum. With the help of skilled museum curatorial partners and valued content contributors, each year’s theme and the stories told within it are creatively developed in a short time frame so that the exhibition responds quickly to current events.”
This year the team was given the opportunity to have a dialogue about Canada’s 150th anniversary.
“Several of my colleagues in the UBC Library were thinking about the 150th anniversary in terms of our relationship on unceded Musqueam territory and what it means to be working at a university and to be inhabiting this space,” explains Dupont.
With this in mind, the (Un)History team decided to bring that dialogue into a more central space and to facilitate broader engagement around the topic. When creating the exhibition, the curatorial partners wanted to introduce the audience not only to the work, programs and projects that are taking place on campus, but also invite them to think about how they fit into this conversation at UBC, as a student, staff member, faculty member, and as a community member.
The Musqueam First Nation curated three of the cases on display for the exhibition. One of them told the story of Musqueam, specifically of the land. The second case talked about the curriculum resources developed by the community that are available for youth and borrowed through the Museum of Anthropology.
The third case curated by Musqueam was a conversation about the c̓əsnaʔəm exhibit that is still ongoing at the Museum of Vancouver. The exhibit was the focus of the Aboriginal Un-History Month exhibition in 2015.
“The emphasis of Musqueam’s ongoing efforts to assert rights as a First Nation is a really important conversation to keep having in the Learning Centre, as it is an multidisciplinary gathering space for all students. It is an opportunity for students to learn about and reflect on what it means when Elder Larry Grant says Musqueam has been here since time immemorial. Students have a responsibility to understand the perspectives of Indigenous peoples on whose traditional territories they are learning, here and now as students, and wherever they may go in the future as alumni of this institution,” added Dupont.
The Native Youth Program
Pam Brown, Curator, Pacific Northwest at the Museum of Anthropology (MOA) and the Director of the Native Youth Program (NYP), has been involved with the Aboriginal Un-History Month exhibition since it launched five years ago.
NYP is a summer program for urban aboriginal youth (ages 15-18) currently enrolled in secondary school. It provides summer employment and training to 6 urban Aboriginal high school students and 2 UBC students as program manager and research assistant. The goal is to produce young aboriginal leaders, provide meaningful direction and mentoring, enhance employment opportunities for aboriginal youth and promote public understanding of the diversity and richness of aboriginal cultures within the UBC community. While the core program is consistent year to year, evolution in project learning and innovation in partnerships and use of digital media delivers new elements.
The NYP project that was showcased in this year’s exhibition focused on comic animation. The youth had a week-long intensive workshop with Mohawk artist Skawennati at Emily Carr University of Art and Design where they learnt digital storytelling and made a machinima.
The Heiltsuk language mobilization project
In addition to her work with the NYP, Brown continues work on a five-year Heiltsuk Language and Culture Collaborative Documentation and Digitization Project with the Heiltsuk Cultural Centre in Bella Bella. Co-participants include Mark Turin from UBC’s First Nations and Endangered Languages Program; Kim Lawson, Reference Librarian, Xwi7xwa Library; Gerry Lawson, MOA’s Oral History Language Lab Coordinator; and Lisa Nathan, Assistant Professor at UBC’s School of Library, Archival and Information Studies and Coordinator of the First Nations Curriculum Concentration. Heiltsuk Co-participants include Jennifer Carpenter, Director, the Heiltsuk Cultural Centre, Frances Brown, Heiltsuk Language Teacher, Bella Bella Community School and Rory Housty, Language Teacher, Heiltsuk Community College. The project continues to support the Heiltsuk First Nation in seeing their cultural archives and language resources digitized, inventoried, and connected with audiences and practices, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, through a resource portal. The project involves teaching the language in Bella Bella and Vancouver in the near future, and developing technologies and digital educational resources in the community that will support innovative language dissemination at MOA.
Dupont believes projects like this one are shifting the ways in which First Nations and universities interact.
“Indigenous participation in research design and attribution is becoming a more commonly expected approach for researchers to take. Now, we see examples of research relationships that have been struck in ways that directly contribute to the expressed needs of First Nation, rather than just the direct research interests of the researcher. Though there are still areas and examples where there can be inequalities in the researcher-participant relationship, respectfully-constructed and conducted projects, like the Heiltsuk language mobilization project, demonstrate a shift in how the academy is viewing its valuation of reciprocity in its relationships with First Nations,” explained Dupont.
The Indigitization Program
Indigitization was featured in this year’s exhibition of Whose 150? as it uniquely repositions the role of the university as a contributor to the preservation and digitization of First Nations cultural heritage.
“As publically funded institutions, academic libraries focus on collecting materials from people and communities. Thanks to an endowment by Irving K. Barber, special funding allows for the in situ digitization of First Nations cultural heritage content by community members. This eliminates the barrier of making culturally sensitive materials publically available, while still addressing a timely need to stabilize and make available extremely valuable content accessibly to appropriate community members,” says Dupont.
***This video originally appeared on digitalassetsymposium.com
Gerry Lawson, Oral History and Language Lab at Vancouver Museum of Anthropology, UBC.
“Precious fragments” of indigenous knowledge are increasingly held captive in obsolete audio-visual media formats. The ethics, culture and practices of traditional information management have served as significant obstacles to media digitization at most small institutions. The innovative Indigitization Program breaks through some of these barriers that First Nations communities in British Columbia are faced with in developing information management practice appropriate to their needs. Gerry will discuss his role in developing the resources that formed the grant program, as well as how the Indigitization team manages program evolution to become more effective and resilient.
Gerry Lawson is a member of the Heiltsuk First Nation, manages the Oral History and Language lab at the University of British Columbia Museum Of Anthropology and is the technology lead for the innovative UBC Indigitization program. He takes a practical, entrepreneurial approach to heritage media preservation with a specialization in Indigenous knowledge recordings. Along with a growing team of friends and colleagues, Gerry tries to foster success through the creation of accessible jargon-free resources, partnerships and communities of practice.
While not quite obsolete, audio cassettes are losing their appeal as long-term storage solutions of sound recordings. Many First Nations communities across British Columbia, Canada, are in possession of hundreds of cassette tapes filled with hours and hours of audio recordings of elder stories, traditional songs, and other key elements of their culture. Given this shift away from the analog technology, they are concerned that much of this knowledge may be lost if they don’t come up with strategies to transfer their contents to digital formats.
A project called Indigitization has stepped in to providing funding and training for these First Nations communities to digitize those recordings as a way to preserve them for future generations. This collaborative project between the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, the First Nations Technology Council, and three First Nations communities — Heiltsuk, Ktunaxa, and ‘Namgis — created an online toolkit with step-by-step instructions for communities interested in undertaking the digitization process.
This grants program makes funding available to First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities to pay for equipment, digitization technical staff, and travel to and from trainings. Five rounds of funding have been completed and a sixth call for proposals recently closed in March 2017. Examples of projects funded by the Indigitization Grant Program include funds awarded to:
- the Tsilhqot’in National Government to digitize “Tsilhqot’in Elder interview cassette recordings dating back to 1999-2000 an estimated 400 cassettes. Elder interviews are in the Tsilhqot’in/Chilcotin language, sadly some of those elders are no longer with us today”
- the Hupacasath First Nation to digitize “83 audio cassettes containing over 240 hours of oral history from their elders. The audio tapes contain interviews with elders about land use, and stories of Hupacasath legends passed on from generation to generation.”
While digitizing will help these communities preserve this information, it does not automatically mean that it will be uploaded to the internet for public access. Another component of the toolkit is providing information on copyright, intellectual property, and different types of licenses to consider, but the Indigitization project makes it clear that “the decision regarding public access to any digitized information rests entirely with each First Nation.”
The project also put on a “Futures Forum” conference held in June 2016, which “brought together an emerging network of community-based information professionals and practitioners, academics, and a wider community of specialists who work to support context-appropriate information practices within Indigenous communities.” A summary of the panels and speakers can be found in the Stories from the Forum section.
***This article originally appeared on blueprintdigital.com
Diverse Indigenous cultures thrived in British Columbia until assailed by mechanisms of colonization. One element of Indigenous resilience was embedding precious fragments of Community knowledge in magnetic media. These media are increasingly inaccessible due to the deterioration of their physical format.
Funding programs to digitize analog media often come with inappropriate accessibility requirements and taxing reporting. ll-suited “best practices” concerning information management serve as an extra barrier.
The panelists in this session share an awareness that existing information practices are firmly rooted in Western knowledge systems that are not always appropriate when dealing with Indigenous traditional knowledge. This session will add depth and nuance to issues surrounding the digitization of material related to Indigenous community knowledge and provide examples of ways to do this work while challenging institutional norms.
About the Speakers
Alissa Cherry, Research Manager at the Audrey & Harry Hawthorn Library & Archives at the Museum of Anthropology (MOA) at the University of British Columbia (UBC). Alissa is a member of the Academy of Certified Archivists and holds an MLIS from UBC. Prior to joining MOA in 2014, Alissa managed the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs Resource Centre for 9 years, worked for both the BC Aboriginal Child Care Society and Xwi7xwa Library at UBC, and spent six years as Librarian in Yellowstone National Park.
Sarah Dupont, Metis from Prince George, B.C., is the Indigitization project manager. This project is one of her duties as the Aboriginal Engagement Librarian at UBC Library, specific to her work with the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre. She coordinates grant development and promotion, supports project participants, and identifies partnership opportunities.
Gerry Lawson, member of the Heiltsuk First Nation, is the Coordinator for the Oral History and Language Lab, at the UBC Museum of Anthropology and the technology lead for the Indigitization Program.
***This video originally appeared on blueprintdigital.com
“Hi, my name is Sarah DuPont. I’m the Aboriginal Engagement Librarian at the University of British Columbia, and I’m here with the Indigitzation Program.
So, our topic was to illuminate everything about the Indigitization Program, and it was really fantastic to share a little bit about the work we do with First Nations community digital cultural heritage preservation.
We talked a little bit about why this program is important. It’s a grant-funded program that’s run out of the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre at UBC. Essentially we told people that it’s about $10,000 matching grant funds that we give out to communities to help teach about audio cassette digitization and preservation and all the things that go along with digital cultural heritage preservation and management.
We talked a lot in our presentation about some of the challenges and barriers to doing this type of work in communities when we’re looking at issues of trust, cultural sensitivity, and the information. So, our program tries to build capacity in communities so that trust can be bridged between the university and communities.
***This article originally appeared on bclaconnect.ca.
By Michelle Kaczmarek and Emily Guerrero.
Based at the Irving K. Barber Centre at the University of British Columbia, Indigitization is a collaborative project that provides grants and training to First Nations community groups to support their digitization projects. Digitizing First Nations materials involves unique challenges around access to information, storage of digitized material, and culturally appropriate knowledge organization systems. On June 10-12, 2016, past program participants met alongside others concerned with digitization practices and the management of Indigenous knowledge in communities to participate in the Indigitization Futures Forum. The Forum provided space to discuss past and future projects, share knowledge and best practices, and to work together to envision future paths for the community-based digitization work that Indigitization supports.
At the forum, past participants spoke to the power of rooting their digitization projects within community, and discussed how specific community needs and protocol have shaped the outcome of their work. Joey Caro, from the Hul’qumi’num Treaty Group and Penelakut, discussed the need to prioritize traditional land use information according to which areas of the territories have projects proposed for them. Rory Housty from the Heiltsuk Cultural Education Centre spoke about his practice of digitizing recordings from families with upcoming potlatches, so that they can have access to those materials to help guide their practices. Other participants spoke of the complexity of representing sacred traditional knowledge within information systems, and shared the many ways in which communities have come together to augment existing systems to work for their needs, in some cases creating whole new open source systems to contain the knowledge.
Presenters demonstrated their deep personal connections to the work, and teased out ways of incorporating these relationships into the projects themselves. Several panel members spoke to the importance of engaging both elders and youth within their projects, to both help shape the outcome and provide hands-on access to the materials. Marvin Williams from Lake Babine generously shared some of the history of the people that was learned through their digitized tapes. They are keeping their culture strong by passing this knowledge and techniques to their youth.
Kate Hennessy discussed a project with the Dane-zaa people that incorporated participatory media making, where community members could come together to help curate the physical material which was to be digitized for the online gallery. This long-term approach to curation gave people time to raise and discuss concerns over local rights and the circulation of materials as they arose, and helped support participants’ ownership of the final galleries. Sherry Stump from the Tsilhqot’in Nation spoke about the Nation’s digitization of Traditional Use Studies, which took place from 1999-2001. Because the first release form did not account for digital access, the project has created a new form that specifically asks participants about their comfort with having information shared; elders can choose to make the materials publicly available for use only in educational purposes, or to keep it confidential.
Alongside presentations from past grant participants, Futures Forum attendees also heard speakers from various universities and organizations. During the lunchtime keynote address, UBC faculty enriched the conversation with perspectives from further afield; Dr. Candace Kaleimamoowahinekapu Galla discussed some of the ways in which technology is being harnessed to support language revitalization in Hawai’i, and Dr. Mark Turin shared his experiences helping to leverage collections back into community hands with the Digital Himalaya project.
With the focus of the weekend’s forum on looking to the future, presentations also contributed to the discussion of how community projects and the Indigitization program might evolve in the coming years. Panel guests provided plenty of inspiration and advice for those thinking about next steps in their projects. For many of those looking beyond their audiocassette digitization projects, the next big challenge is preserving the material housed on other deteriorating formats. Elizabeth McManus from Musqueam Archives discussed the idiosyncrasies of digitizing reel-to-reel audio recordings, and shared some of the unique aspects of the materials she’s handled in her work with Musqueam. Gerry Lawson from the Museum of Anthropology brought up ways in which digitization technology has changed over the past decade, and spoke to the need to move quickly with these projects, both to preserve deteriorating materials and to take advantage of the digitization technology while it is still available.
At the end of the forum, participants came together to brainstorm and share their knowledge needs around project management, funding, communities of practice, and digitizing other media formats. The consensus of these conversations highlighted both the diverse and deeply important work already being done to support community-based digitization work, and the desire for greater connection among community projects to learn and discuss ideas.
After this weekend of knowledge sharing and discussion, Indigitization hopes that the conversation will continue. The steering committee is excited to move forward, taking the stories and reflections shared at the forum and letting those guide the shape of the future of Indigitization. They hope to continue to create opportunities for communities to share experiences and knowledge.
The Futures Forum program, including video recordings of some presentations, can be viewed at the Stories from the Forum webpage. For more information about Indigitization and its grant program, please visit Indigitization.ca.
Michelle Kaczmarek is a PhD student and Emily Guerrero is a Master’s student at the University of British Columbia’s School of Library, Archival and Information Studies. Emily and Michelle are Research Assistants with the Sustaining Information Practices team. The team’s work with Indigitization is made possible by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada