Collaborative Curation / Julia Gray

This study path provides an introduction to the Mukurtu content management system and involves learning about and implementing models for collaborative curation. This is an extensive exercise that involves a significant up-front investment in set-up and training. Depending on other course work, it may require additional background reading/research as preparation.

By Julia Gray, Independent Consultant, Riverside Museum Solutions


Learning Objectives

  • Learners will recognize the differences between traditional museum curation methods, consultation, and true collaboration.
  • Learners will develop an understanding of the complexity of collaborative curation, recognizing the role of factors including (but not limited to) cultural difference, language, costs, and timelines.
  • Learners will begin to recognize their own perspectives, and how these shape their role in curation. They begin to acknowledge that everyone brings implicit bias to the curation process, and that letting go of curatorial “control” can be a challenge.
  • Learners will be able to identify tools to support collaborative curation.
  • Learners will develop skills in setting up and using a content management system specifically designed for community collaboration.


Reflection/discussion prompt

  • What is the difference between consultation and collaboration?
  • How does Mukurtu CMS support a collaborative approach to curation?


Please Note: This is an extensive exercise that involves a significant up-front investment in set and training. Depending on other course work, it may require additional background reading/research as preparation.

This assignment asks students to use the tools provided by Mukurtu CMS, informed by guidelines such as the Community + Museum Guidelines to Collaboration to experiment with the process of collaborative curation. Through a combination of background research, hands-on activity, and evaluation/reflection, participants will gain an introductory-level experience with moving towards decolonizing, collaborative museum/archives/library work.

This assignment can be completed individually or in groups. Group work has the advantage of  bringing more diversity of perspectives to the project.

  1. Identify a collection of cultural objects to work with for this project. If this is being done at an institution that holds Indigenous collections, learners could work with that collection. If not, Indigenous collections can be found online to simulate the process. These are some examples of online collections catalogs that could be used:
  2. Set up an instance of Mukurtu. If this is being done at an institution with an IT department and in-house, hosting, work with them to do this. If you do not have access to an IT department, the project can use the Reclaim Hosting option, but this will require some funds. Another option would be to create a spreadsheet using the fields and field descriptions for Mukurtu (this is the least preferred method).About Mukurtu CMS: to set up your instance of Mukurtu:
  3. Once students or groups have set up an instance of Mukurtu, follow the instructions here to do things like setting up communities and creating digital heritage items: on the amount of time for this project, create several digital heritage items.
  4. Consider this initial experience creating digital heritage items in Mukurtu. What fields were you able to complete? Which fields were you not able to complete? What is the role of cultural protocols? What do you need to know to establish protocols? Who has the knowledge to define cultural protocols? What kinds of access can/should be addressed by protocols? For the fields you were not able to complete, why? Whose knowledge and perspectives would you need to complete these fields?
  5. Now read through the two sets of guidelines for collaboration at ideas do these guidelines generate for ways of collaborating to address the fields in Mukurtu that you were not able to complete?

Create a sample plan for the collaborative work needed to create more complete digital heritage items in Mukurtu. Include in this plan some of the following:

Who will your partners be?

What are the logistics of working with these partners?

What funds will you need to support the collaborative process? Create a budget.

What sort of timeline/schedule will be needed to support the collaborative process?

Another resource for learning more about collaborative, culturally-appropriate approaches to digital curation can be found here:

If you are learning on your own, you can consider working with Mukurtu CMS’s shared demo site. More information on this option is available via You will also find the resources at


If you are at an institution that has a strong working relationship with an Indigenous community whose cultural heritage it holds, you can consider adding the additional step of implementing your plan for collaborative curation, on whatever scale is appropriate for your situation.


Instructors ask students to consider the reflection questions from the beginning:

  • What is the difference between consultation and collaboration?
  • How does Mukurtu CMS support a collaborative approach to curation?

Responses can be written or through class/group discussion.

If you are learning on your own, use the reflection questions for self-assessment.

An additional assessment option is to create two matrix- one with key concepts from the Communities + Museums guidelines, another with the fields from a Mukurtu digital heritage item. On the other axis of the matrix, identified the success you had in either implementing or coming up with a concrete plan to implement these concepts and meaningfully complete the CMS fields.


Communities + Museums: Guidelines for Collaboration, School for Advanced Research

This website includes guidelines developed for both museums planning to collaborate with Native communities, and for Native communities wishing to work with museums. It also includes a variety of background information and short case studies.


Anderson, Jane. 2005. “Indigenous Knowledge, Intellectual Property, Libraries and Archives: Crises of Access, Control and Future Utility.” Australian Academic & Research Libraries 36 (2): 83–94.
Christen, Kimberly A. 2012. “Does Information Really Want to Be Free? Indigenous Knowledge Systems and the Question of Openness.” International Journal of Communication 6 (0): 24.
Cushman, Ellen. 2013. “Wampum, Sequoyan, and Story: Decolonizing the Digital Archive.” College English 76 (2): 115–35.
Duarte, Marisa Elena, and Miranda Belarde-Lewis. 2015. “Imagining: Creating Spaces for Indigenous Ontologies.” Cataloging & Classification Quarterly 53 (5–6): 677–702.

Communities of practice

Sustainable Heritage Network

Exemplary projects

Plateau People’s Web Portal

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