Paper Digital Humanities Australasia 2018

PNG Voices: sharing stories to commemorate the past (81)

Michelle Watson 1 , Bernadette Houghton 1 , Hasitha Ralalage 1
  1. Deakin University, Geelong, VIC, Australia

This conference paper will showcase and explore a new oral history website, PNG Voices, an Omeka-built site created by Deakin University Library in collaboration with Deakin researcher Dr Jonathan Ritchie and researchers from Papua New Guinea. PNG Voices preserves and makes available to the public Papua New Guineans’ memories and recollections of World War Two.

Funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and created by Deakin University in consultation with PNG researchers and the PNG National Museum and Art Gallery, the site includes over 250 in person interviews gathered across six different provinces in PNG. This rich oral history site has been built for the people of PNG, but will be of value worldwide to researchers, schools, and anyone who is interested in learning about the extraordinary sacrifices and efforts made by the PNG people who fought alongside Australian and Allied troops against the Japanese invasion of their country.

The paper will provide an overview of the researchers, advisors, design and technical staff who worked together across two countries to pull the site together. PNG Voices represents a truly collaborative mix of skills and effort across organisations, sectors and countries.

One of the successes of the PNG Voices project - the implementation and deployment of LibraryBox, an open source, portable digital file distribution tool -  will be featured in the paper. LibraryBox has enabled the Project Team to deliver a key funding goal, which was to ensure that as many PNG people as possible have access to the interviews, photographs, and transcripts featured in the site, regardless of internet connectivity and geographical location.

Some (perhaps inevitable) cross cultural challenges – for example, the on the ground verbal-based methodologies used to gain permission from interviewees for their stories to be made public and available for download and sharing, vs the strict copyright and privacy-related requirements of Deakin University - will be explored with conference colleagues, with observations and lessons learned shared.  The paper will also provide a hindsight perspective of the experiences and level of success of two librarians who visited the National Museum and Art Gallery to provide a three day training course in the use of Omeka and LibraryBox software.

The paper includes a number of themes that naturally complement the topic of the 2018 conference, Making Connections:

  • The collaborative connections of professionals from two culturally quite separate nations to build a site that is of significance to both;
  • ICT-related challenges and the technical problems that impacted the building of the site as well as the final product;
  • The use of digital technologies to provide people in remote areas an opportunity to engage in the site and listen to the oral histories, via the rollout of LibraryBox software.