Preserving indigenous traditions in digital form

A complete picture of U.S. history requires the information held in tribal archives, libraries, and museums (TALMs). While many major libraries and museums now digitize their collections for access and use, many TALMs lack the resources to do so. In addition, traditional content management systems are organized under Western standards, not allowing for local narrations and other cultural practices and protocols important to archiving Native heritage.

Digitally preserving and sharing stories, artifacts, and images from diverse cultures is important in a technologically advancing world. WSU researcher Kim Christen is ensuring that digital history includes Native American voices stored and accessed in culturally responsible ways.

Helping tribal communities build and maintain digital archives

Dr. Christen has partnered with WSU Libraries to train tribal communities in the lifecycle of digital stewardship. Together they are hosting a multi-year Tribal Stewardship Cohort Program, supported by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

Central to the program is Mukurtu CMS, a content management system that Dr. Christen originally developed several years ago for the Warumungu Aboriginal community in Australia. The sustainable, scalable software platform is now used around the world to help indigenous peoples circulate, manage, and narrate materials following their cultural practices. The cohort program teaches tribal communities how to implement and use Mukurtu in their home institutions.

Taking digital preservation nationwide

Dr. Christen’s most recent grant from the IMLS will allow her to launch Mukurtu hubs around the country, in partnership with several universities and libraries. The hubs will provide training and support to TALMs, and ongoing development and deployment of the Mukurtu platform.

Dr. Christen’s work on Mukurtu is part of the Center for Digital Scholarship and Curation, which she leads at WSU with co-director Trevor Bond from WSU Libraries.