News from UBC’s Indigitization Program

***This article originally appeared on bclaconnect.ca.

By Sarah DuPont.

Since 2013, the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, the Museum of Anthropology, and the iSchool have supported 19 projects from B.C. First Nations organizations through the Indigitization: Aboriginal Audio Digitization and Preservation Program. This innovative initiative provides resources to digitize audiocassettes that contain important, and in many cases irreplaceable, recordings of spoken traditional knowledge. These resources include grant funding and in-person training, as well as access to digitization equipment and an online resource toolkit.

Digitization grants have typically required that digitized content be openly accessible. Key to the development of the Indigitization Program is the acknowledgement that First Nations heritage knowledge is often subject to complex traditional ownership and access protocols. Recipients of the Indigitization funding grant are not required to share their digitized content publically, but are encouraged to develop culturally informed access protocols and policies. This enables communities to retain control over their traditional knowledge recordings and share them in ethical and appropriate ways.

2015 Indigitization grant project participants receive audiocassette digitization training at UBC. Photo from UBC Library.

Success of the Indigitization program is measured by more than the quantity of audiocassettes that are digitized. The breadth and richness of participant-led projects is found in the relationships and networks that are developed. This includes how projects have engaged community members to contribute to the protection of their cultural knowledge via activities such as gatherings with Elders, social media discussions, and the discovery of previously unknown recordings. Future applications of the digitized information may enhance administrative, institutional, or organizational purposes (e.g., language curriculum development, learning tool innovation, land and water protection).

In 2016 the University of B.C.’s Indigitization Program will continue to grow its connections when it hosts a summer forum to bring previous and new participants together to discuss the goals of media management in Indigenous organizations.

The goal of this summer’s gathering (date to be announced) is to discuss the current challenges and opportunities by asking big picture questions about media management tools and strategies, as well as questions pertaining to access protocols for cultural materials. Training workshops are also being planned around this forum event based on participant interest. For example, the Sustainable Heritage Network team from Washington State University will give an introductory digitization workshop for other media formats.

The summer forum will take place in addition to the grant and training cycle for audiocassette digitization projects. Applications for grant funding are due on Feb. 26, 2016. Please share this opportunity with your relevant networks. Additional information is available at www.indigitization.ca.


Sarah Dupont is the Aboriginal Engagement Librarian X̱wi7x̱wa Library and the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre at the University of British Columbia. Her role at UBC Library includes providing reference and instruction services, outreach, and programming, in addition to managing the Indigitization Program. She has been the BCLA’s First Nations Interest Group convener since 2012.