New book surveys complexities of Archival Returns
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 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:
- Conundrums and consequences: Doing digital archival returns in Australia by Linda Barwick, Jennifer Green, Petronella Vaarzon-Morel and Katya Zissermann, takes a broad view of the social, political, and technical issues involved in negotiating returns.
- (Re)turning research into pedagogical practice: A case study of translational language research in Warlpiri, by Carmel O’Shannessy, Samantha Disbray, Barbara Martin and Gretel Macdonald, describes a process whereby methods and materials collected for language documentation research have been returned to speakers in communities through the implementation of professional development activities for Warlpiri educators in bilingual education programs.
- “For the children…”: Aboriginal Australia, cultural access, and archival obligation, by Brenda L Croft, Sandy Toussaint, Felicity Meakins and Patrick McConvell, uses two case studies to raise crucial ethical and epistemological questions: for whom are archives created and conserved, who is obliged to care for and authorise access to them, and to whom do they belong?
- Working at the interface: The Daly Languages Project, by Rachel Nordlinger, Ian Green and Peter Hurst, discusses the goals and outcomes of the project, which has developed website landing pages for all of the languages of the Daly region of northern Australia.
- Return of a travelling song: Wanji-wanji in the Pintupi region of Central Australia, by Myfany Turpin, discusses responses to the return of recordings of Pintupi song made in 1976, with particular focus on one song, Wanji-wanji, which featured on the recordings.
- i-Tjuma: The journey of a collection – from documentation to delivery, by Elizabeth Marrkilyi Ellis, Jennifer Green and Inge Kral, follows the iterative cycle of documentation, archiving and return of a verbal arts collection resulting from a documentation project in the Ngaanyatjarra Lands of the Western Desert.
- Ever-widening circles: Consolidating and enhancing Wirlomin Noongar archival material in the community, by Clint Bracknell and Kim Scott, details how senior Noongar of the Wirlomin clan in the south coast region of Western Australia established an organisation to facilitate cultural and linguistic revitalisation by combining community-held knowledge with documentation and recordings repatriated from archives.
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)