digitization: just because you can, doesn’t mean you should / Tara Robertson

In this blog post, Robertson takes a critical look at Reveal Digital’s work to digitize On Our Backs (OOB), a lesbian feminist porn magazine that ran from 1984-2004. She points out that there are ethical issues with digitizing and making print collections like OOB available online and that Reveal Digital needs more robust ethical guidelines and take-down policies. Robertson also emphasizes the importance of working with people who were featured in OOB and appear in the collection, citing their right to be forgotten.

Robertson, Tara. 2016. “Digitization: Just Because You Can, Doesn’t Mean You Should.” Tara Robertson (blog). March 20, 2016. http://tararobertson.ca/2016/oob/.

From Archives to Action: Zines, Participatory Culture, and Community Engagement in Asian America

Honma describes the use of zines in an undergraduate classroom to promote alternative pedagogies and incorporate critical inquiry and research skills. By bringing zines into his classroom as research materials, Honma provides an example of how to use archival materials and research to make connections between community archives and community action, and help students view themselves as embedded in larger community histories. This article discusses the framework and assignments incorporated into the course, and the larger impacts of this framework for considering archives as dynamic and contested sites of meaning.

Honma, T. (2016).”From Archives to Action: Zines, Participatory Culture, and Community Engagement in Asian America.” Radical Teacher, 105, 33–43.

Does Information Really Want to be Free? Indigenous Knowledge Systems and the Question of Openness

The “information wants to be free” meme was born some 20 years ago from the free and open source software development community. In the ensuing decades, information freedom has merged with debates over open access, digital rights management, and intellectual property rights. More recently, as digital heritage has become a common resource, scholars, activists, technologists, and local source communities have generated critiques about the extent of information freedom. This article injects both the histories of collecting and the politics of information circulation in relation to indigenous knowledge into this debate by looking closely at the history of the meme and its cultural and legal underpinnings. This approach allows us to unpack the meme’s normalized assumptions and gauge whether it is applicable across a broad range of materials and cultural variances.

Christen, K. A. (2012). “Does Information Really Want to be Free? Indigenous Knowledge Systems and the Question of Openness.” International Journal of Communication, 6(0), 24.

Indigenous Knowledge, Intellectual Property, Libraries and Archives: Crises of Access, Control and Future Utility

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. https://doi.org/10.1080/00048623.2005.10721250.


Mukurtu (MOOK-oo-too) is an open source platform and content management system for digital community archives. The name is a Warumungu word meaning ‘dilly bag’ or a safe keeping place for sacred materials. This grassroots project seeks to empower communities to manage, share, narrate, and exchange their digital heritage in culturally relevant and ethically-minded ways.

“About Murkurtu.” n.d. Murkurtu. http://mukurtu.org/about/.

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. http://hdl.handle.net/2376/5704.

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

Introducing Documenting the Now / Ed Summers

In this introduction to Documenting the Now collaborative project, Summers provides background about the urgency and need for this type of open source application, especially for the Black community. He outlines two main goals of the DocNow project: 1) Create an open source app “that will allow researchers and archivists to easily collect, analyze, and preserve Twitter messages and the Web resources they reference;” 2) “Cultivate a much needed conversation between scholars, archivists, journalists, and human rights activists around the effective and ethical use of social media content.”

Summers, Ed. 2016. “Introducing Documenting the Now.” MITH: Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities. DocNow (blog). February 17, 2016. https://news.docnow.io/introducing-documenting-the-now-416874c07e0#.6wp34iv6a.


Jules, Bergis. 2015. “Preserving Social Media Records of Activism.” On Archivy (blog). November 24, 2015. https://medium.com/on-archivy/preserving-social-media-records-of-activism-26e0f1751869.

National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) Repatriation Policy

“Repatriation is the process whereby specific kinds of American Indian cultural items in a museum collection are returned to lineal descendants and culturally affiliated Indian tribes, Alaska Native clans or villages, and/or Native Hawaiian organizations.”

Repatriation at the NMAI is a uniquely proactive and collaborative process. Working closely with Native peoples and communities, the NMAI conducts research and makes decisions independent of other Smithsonian offices. This policy details who can be part of the repatriation process and what this process looks like. Provides an example for how to create a specific policy to demonstrate commitment to respecting Indigenous peoples and cultures.

National Museum of the American Indian. 2014. “Repatriation.” National Museum of the American Indian (Smithsonian Institution). http://nmai.si.edu/explore/collections/repatriation/.