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Special attention for treasure trove of bilingual materials

Archiving, Learning

Date: 21 July 2017

CoEDL is proud to be lending support to a project to digitise and archive a wonderful collection of unique Pintupi-Luritja and English educational materials.

CoEDL’s Samantha Disbray and Julia Miller, along with Kylie Moloney from the National Library of Australia and Vivien Johnson, art historian, curator and author, travelled to Papunya in the Western Desert 250km west of Alice Springs last month to take stock of the materials.

Samantha Disbray and Kylie Moloney working on an inventory of books
Samantha Disbray and Kylie Moloney working on an inventory of books.

The collection, held by the Papunya School, includes manuscripts of a unique vernacular literature written and illustrated by local authors and artists that documents the collective effort to teach children in the region in their first language. There are layouts of most of the approximately 500 books, along with hand drawn illustrations, contact strips, negatives and loose photographs, which track the history of the community. They were produced by the  Papunya Literature Production Centre. Also in the collection are issues of the community newsletter produced by the centre, with issues dating back to 1979. There are also hundreds of audio and video tapes.

Supported by local educator Charlotte Phillipus, and school staff member Peter Pratt, the team spent the week safe-storing and documenting the materials.

Vivien Johnson looking at one of the original illustrations from the literacy manuscripts.
Vivien Johnson looking at one of the original illustrations from the literacy manuscripts.

Community members, many originally involved in the Literature Production Centre, came together as a steering committee to consider future steps. A key concern for the group is not only the future fate of the materials, but the desire to see them used in the school once more.

The work will be incorporated into a project plan for an on-going preservation and access program.

Charlotte Phillipus, Vivien Johnson, Samantha Disbray and the community steering committee will continue to seek funds and local support to work through the collection, in conjunction with the Tjupi Arts Centre and the Northern Territory Department of Education. The goal is to find long-term storage for the most vulnerable and rare materials and to digitise and provide local access to the collection.

Julia Miller cleaning and sorting video tapes.
Julia Miller cleaning and sorting video tapes.

Many of the published books are already available on the Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages, a collaborative digitisation and access project carried out by Charles Darwin University, the Australian National University and the Northern Territory Department of Education. However, there is much work to be done.

The project welcomes students and volunteers. Contact Samantha Disbray Samantha.disbray@anu.edu.au or Vivien Johnson johnsonvivien@hotmail.com for more information.

Top image: Julia Miller plays a selection of audio tapes to the steering committee.

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

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