Paper Digital Humanities Australasia 2018

The Circle of Archiving for Cultural Heritage (82)

Nick Thieberger 1 , Linda Barwick 2 , Amanda Harris 2
  1. University of Melbourne, Melbourne
  2. University of Sydney, University Of Sydney, NSW, Australia

The creation and description of research records has not always been a priority for humanities academics, and records that are created have typically not been provided with good archival solutions. This is despite these records often being of cultural or historical relevance beyond academia. 

Many academic researchers at the end of their careers despair at the task of making sense of a lifetime’s output of papers, notes, images, and recordings. Our project, the Pacific and Regional Archive for Digital Sources in Endangered Cultures (PARADISEC), began in 2003 by digitising analog tape collections and providing sufficient metadata to make them discoverable. These tapes belonged to retired or deceased researchers and would otherwise have been stored in a house or maybe a library, but in both cases are difficult to find and more difficult to access.  

In this talk we describe the full circle of archiving practices that preserve research materials, make them findable, and facilitate accessibility for source communities. We have worked with a number of museums and cultural centres to digitise analog tapes. We will outline how PARADISEC works and how to find information in it. We will show how we provide access to the collections we hold and how that has helped build links with people and agencies in the Pacific. We are working on ways of getting information about the collection to the source communities so that they can find recordings made by community members in the past. With over a quarter of the world’s languages, the Pacific is a particularly good place to focus on how language records can be made accessible. The distribution of languages across the region also poses challenges for delivering data to source communities. We will discuss how we are working to structure data in the archive so it can be more readily delivered to source communities.

The Federal Government allocates funding ($2.8 billion since 2004) under the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS). How this funding is distributed is based on consultation every few years using a roadmap (2005, 2008, 2011, 2016). While the main focus of these roadmaps is overwhelmingly science and technology, the most recent roadmaps have included humanities. In both the 2011 and 2016 roadmaps, PARADISEC has featured among the platforms representing research in Indigenous and endangered cultural heritage.