New work on Archive (In)digitization

I’m always excited to see new work from Siobhan Senier at the University of New Hampshire — like this fantastic new piece on early Indigenous digital collections, which highlights some of the best digital repositories for early Indigenous literatures around.

Certainly anyone who cares about Indigenous literary history in the northeast (or more generally about the digitization of Indigenous cultural materials) should be following what Siobhan is doing. This is a fascinating and tricky area of the digital humanities. Over the course of the last few years, libraries and archives in both Canada and the US have been rushing to digitize their holdings to promote their collections and to improve public access. With the official launch of the Digital Public Library of America in April of 2013, US-based humanities scholars were thrust into ongoing high-level debates about information management. Suddenly, scholars who had never given digitization much thought were seeing their research topics as important cogs in worldwide discussions about how cultural materials are preserved, protected, and disseminated. This is perhaps especially true in the realm of Indigenous Studies, which has always been concerned with the preservation of culture and heritage.

And so a small cohort of scholars began to engage in essential conversations about which Indigenous materials “want to be free,” about what should be restricted, and about how those controls should function. Siobhan’s work in this area introduced me to important debates about digital rights management and about how culturally-specific ethical concerns can be productively incorporated into collective notions of information freedom.

I also generally come away from Siobhan’s work with valuable new avenues for research and teaching. The Kim-Wait Eisenberg Collection at Amherst College looks especially useful for anyone putting together a syllabus on early Indigenous literatures.

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