The Groote Eylandt Language Centre is bridging the past, present and future by building a digital catalogue and collection of language and cultural materials based around three main pillars:
- a legacy collection of language, cultural and historical materials - manuscripts, photos and tapes, many of which are being digitised - containing stories, dictionary and linguistic descriptions, and ethnographic and environmental knowledge
- Ajamurnda, an innovative digital catalogue to support access to the legacy and newly created materials, especially for Anindilyakwa community members
- an ongoing participatory framework, based around a customised type of "crowdsourcing", to encourage and enable community members to enrich the collection by adding information in their own terms
The Language Centre has been funded under the Commonwealth Government's Indigenous Languages and Arts program to design, pilot and develop the Ajamurnda catalogue. Its design is strongly informed by the knowledge concepts and community dynamics of the Anindilyakwa community. This will ensure that the catalogue faithfully represents the Anindilyakwa world-view and that community members will be able to search and access materials via categories that are most relevant to them.
A major consideration is protocol - respecting the personal, communal, cultural, property and privacy interests of individuals, families and other culturally-relevant groupings. Protocol is dynamic over time, because sensitivities and restrictions change, just as clan lands on Groote Eylandt are closed and reopened in respect and mourning circumstances. Implementation involves research of factors which make materials sensitive, sacred, dangerous, shaming, or restricted in other ways so that access needs to be regulated. Ajamurnda will both hide/protect materials where required, while otherwise making access as easy as possible. Some existing systems implement similar protocols, such as Ara Irititja, NT Library's Community Stories, the Endangered Languages Archive at SOAS, and Mukurtu, and we will seek to collaborate and learn from their experience.
The Ajamurnda project recognises that the greatest amount of knowledge about language, stories, people and places is currently known by individuals across the Anindilyakwa communities and shared orally, and thus at risk of being lost as time passes. Through encouraging and facilitating awareness of and use of the Ajamurnda catalogue and associated app and materials, and making them widely available, we aim to engage Anindilyakwa people to add information to appropriately enrich the knowledge contained in the catalogue for the benefit of current and future generations.
Image: snapshot of the pilot Ajamurnda catalogue database
Our language centre was invited to deliver a presentation about Ajamurnda at the National Indigenous Languages Convention at the Gold Coast in February 2018, and David Nathan delivered a paper at the LREC conference 'Collaboration & Computing for Under-Resourced Languages: Sustaining knowledge diversity in the digital age' in Miyazaki, Japan.
Currently, Ajamurnda has over 40,000 records of Anindilyakwa language and other varied cultural resources spanning 50 years, as well as genealogical data on over 4,000 Groote Eylandt people who lived since the late 1800s.
Work is continuing on further curation of the legacy collection, adding new resources, and developing a public-facing catalogue.
For those interested in cataloguing metadata, you can see Ajamurnda's metadata, a working document which is based on a metadata framework from IRCA (Indigenous Remote Communications Association; now, First Nations Media) together with extensions for local Indigenous values and conventions.