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New book surveys complexities of Archival Returns

Archiving, Felicity Meakins, Nick Thieberger, Rachel Nordlinger

Date: 1 November 2019

Centre members feature heavily as co-authors in a new volume capturing the breadth and complexity of returning records of Indigenous knowledge to their home communities. Archival Returns: Central Australia and Beyond is the 18th Special Publication of Language Documentation and Conservation, an online open-access journal edited by our Chief Investigator Nick Thieberger.

Professor Linda Barwick is a Centre affiliate and chairs the Steering Committee of our archive, PARADISEC. She co-edited the book together with Centre Affiliate Jennifer Green, and Petronella Vaarzon-Morel.

Linda BarwickLinda a says that place-based cultural knowledge – of ceremonies, songs, stories, language, kinship, and ecology – is the thread that binds Australian Indigenous societies together. “Yet we recognise and lament the fact that this extensive documentary heritage of Australian Indigenous peoples is dispersed,” she says.



 “In addition to collections held by Indigenous organisations, these materials are found in a variety of university and government institutions and archives, both within Australia and outside of it. Some materials are held precariously in ad hoc collections, and their caretakers may be perplexed as to the best ways to ensure that the records are looked after for perpetuity. This volume focuses on strategies and practices that enable the return and circulation of documentary records of cultural heritage back to their communities of origin.

“The contributors include linguists, musicologists, anthropologists, artists, lawyers, archivists, Indigenous cultural practitioners, and activists. Each brings to the volume particular disciplinary perspectives that, when taken together, give nuanced and varied views of the issues at stake. It is significant that several of the chapters in the volume are written by Indigenous people who are multiply engaged as both contributors to, and end users of, archives,” Linda says.

Seven of the collection’s 16 chapters feature Centre members as co-authors, including:

Preparation and production of the volume has been supported by the ARC Linkage Project LP140100806 (Chief Investigators Barwick, Green, Nordlinger, and Turpin), in partnership with the University of Sydney, the University of Melbourne, and the Central Land Council (Partner Investigator Brian Connelly). It also received in-kind support from CoEDL and PARADISEC. (Main image: Crop of the cover of Archival Returns; artwork by April Pengart Campbell)

  • Australian Government
  • The University of Queensland
  • Australian National University
  • The University of Melbourne
  • Western Sydney University