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Seminar: New ways with old words: An exploration of the papers of Daisy Bates - Nick Thieberger, 10 Aug

Archiving, Nick Thieberger, University of Melbourne

Date: 4 August 2016

Seminar: New ways with old words: An exploration of the papers of Daisy Bates 

Speaker: Nick Thieberger, ARC Future Fellow, School of Languages and Linguistics 

When: 10 August, 1pm-2pm, University of Melbourne


This paper describes a text-encoding project treating the vocabulary collection of a number of Australian indigenous languages that was created by Daisy Bates in the early 1900s. Her work records words and sentences from a number of Western Australian Aboriginal languages.

The masses of papers produced over her long working life have been an ongoing source of information for Aboriginal people and for researchers (e.g. White 1985, McGregor 2012, Bindon & Chadwick 1992).

The collection at the National Library of Australia (NLA) takes up 51 boxes and 8.16m of shelf space and contains a range of material, but here I will focus on the vocabularies of Australian languages. Bates sent out a questionnaire in 1904 that was filled in by various people by hand, creating a set of manuscript pages. She then supervised the typing of these manuscripts and amended the typescripts. I have been working with the NLA to make digital images of some 23,000 pages of these vocabulary manuscripts, and to create textual versions of the

4,368 typescripts, which can then be linked back to the page images of both the typescripts and handwritten questionnaire manuscripts.

I will contrast a method for preparing these records for reuse with earlier approaches to similar kinds of manuscripts. I weigh up the effort involved in the textual encoding compared to, first, the extraction of lexical information from the lists and, second, the online presentation of page images. The technical details of this work will be briefly discussed, but the paper focuses on the nature of the collection and research outcomes following the first stage of the digitisation and text encoding.

This is the first seminar in a pilot series organised by the Australian Centre, the aim of developing interdisciplinary connections across the  University of Melbourne Faculty of Arts in Australian Studies.  For details about the series and about Nick’s talk, please visit the Australian Centre event page.

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