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New Indigenous languages project maps 100 year-old data

Monday, 11 April 2016


The State Library of NSW has launched an exciting new interactive experiment that uses 100 year-old survey data to map the location and meaning of Indigenous Australian place names across the country.

The project called Weemala, which means ‘a big lookout’ in the Sydney language, places historic survey information from the State Library’s collection relating to Australia’s Indigenous communities in a digital landscape.

According to NSW State Librarian & Chief Executive Alex Byrne: “This innovative collaboration capitalises on the expertise within our Indigenous Services team with the technical creativity of our DX Lab to create something new and wonderful for researchers and users to experience”.

Developer and data enthusiast Chris McDowall, who has been working with the DX Lab as a ‘Digital-Drop-In’, created the test platform for Weemala using transcribed survey forms and correspondence received by the Royal Anthropological Society of Australasia between 1899 and 1903.

“The data contained in the surveys is an important source for documenting the meanings of many Aboriginal places names,” said Kirsten Thorpe, Indigenous Services Manager at the State Library.

“By showing this rich data in the context of the locations it refers to, we hope to add another layer to people’s understanding of these incredible records of our languages,” said Ms Thorpe.

Experience Weemala on the State Library’s website.

Kirsten Thorpe and Paula Bray, DX Lab Leader are available for interviews.

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