Opening Archives: Respectful Repatriation / Kimberly Christen

This article highlights the importance of partnerships in digitization projects in relation to indigenous communities. While digitization and the advent of technologies that make information and items widely available, the groups, in this case indigenous communities, should always be consulted before items are made widely available in an effort to ensure that the item should be included online and that the appropriate description is included.

“In the last twenty years, many collecting institutions have heeded the calls by indigenous activists to integrate indigenous models and knowledge into mainstream practices. The digital terrain poses both possibilities and problems for indigenous peoples as they seek to manage, revive, circulate, and create new cultural heritage within overlapping colonial/postcolonial histories and oftentimes-binary public debates about access in a digital age. While digital technologies allow for items to be repatriated quickly, circulated widely, and annotated endlessly, these same technologies pose challenges to some indigenous communities who wish to add their expert voices to public collections and also maintain some traditional cultural protocols for the viewing, circulation, and reproduction of some materials. This case study examines one collaborative archival project aimed at digitally repatriating and reciprocally curating cultural heritage materials of the Plateau tribes in the Pacific Northwest.”

Christen, Kimberly. 2011. “Opening Archives: Respectful Repatriation.” The American Archivist 74 (1): 185–210.

See also, Honoring the Dead: A Digital Archive of the Insane Indian Asylum by Stacey Berry