Reconnecting collections to communities

The Indigenous Engagement team works to make available the Library’s Aboriginal Historical and Indigenous Languages collections to communities on Country and online. This documentation is a precious asset for communities who want to trace their family history, consult language lists and vocabularies, look at old photos in the catalogue, read missionaries’ and explorers’ diaries and browse contemporary Aboriginal works acquired through the Library’s new Indigenous Collecting Strategy.

These collections were, for the most part, collected from third parties – colonisers, missionaries, travellers, policemen and others – who often documented the lives and cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples without any community input or response. To facilitate this process, the Library has recently adopted Mukurtu, an open-source plaftorm to manage and share digital cultural heritage. In using a dedicated site for these records, there is an important opportunity to respectfully reconnect and make them more accessible and usable to the Aboriginal peoples they belong to.

With Mukurtu – meaning ‘dilly bag’ or ‘a safe keeping place for sacred materials’ in Warumungu language – communities can look at digital collections and apply their own cultural community protocols, respond to the information contained in the Library’s catalogue and use a set of additional features, such as alternative labelling, licensing options and a dictionary. These features have been developed from direct feedback from Indigenous communities in Australia, the United States, Canada, Alaska and others. 

Some key features in Mukurtu include: 

  • Cultural Protocols (Protocols allow you to determine fine-grained levels of access to your digital heritage materials based on your community needs and values);
  • Community Records (Community records provide space for multiple cultural narratives, traditional knowledge, and diverse sets of protocols ensuring that you can tell your stories and your history, your way);
  • TK Labels (TK Labels allow First Nations communities to label third party owned or public domain materials with added information about access, use, circulation and attribution);
  • Roundtrip (Mukurtu CMS Roundtrip feature allows for media and data collections to be brought into Mukurtu and exported again without risk of losing meaning or protocols).

The Library is proud to collaborate with Gamilaraay and Mandandanji artist and animator, Jake Duczynski, to create a unique digital artwork for the Library’s upcoming Mukurtu site, currently in development.