Session 3.4 - Storytelling and crowdsourcing to revitalize culture and language


Anna Blackman, Jian Chen, Yujiao Du

Date Added:

23 October 2019

Chair: Caroline Brown, University Archivist, University of Dundee

Wednesday, 23 October 2019

a. Whakapono Exhibition and Marsden Online Website : bringing the drama of early encounters between Maori and Missionaries in New Zealand to the world by Anna Blackman

To mark the bicentennial of the first mission to Māori, the Hocken Collections - Uare Taoka o Hākena created the exhibition Whakapono; faith and foundations based on its extensive Church Missionary Society archives. The challenge of this exhibition was twofold; to use archival material to tell a story in an interesting and arresting way and to give agency to the Māori voice that is not represented directly in the written archive. The overarching narrative of the exhibition illustrated the experience of evangelical missionaries and Māori brought into a close living relationship for the first time when a society regulated by God, King, and country experienced the culture of mana (status, prestige), tapu (protected, restricted, sacred) and utu (balance, reciprocity). The Church Missionary Society missionaries were some of the earliest Europeans to describe and systematise Māori grammar and vocabulary and their work is key to our understanding of Te Reo (Māori language) today.Key characters are Reverend Samuel Marsden, Ruatara, Hongi Hika and missionary Thomas Kendall.

Stories were told through large graphic panels where selected quotes were interwoven with archival images. Original materials and objects were displayed in cases. Quotes demonstrated the rich content of the archive and its value in describing the events and characters of the time.
An innovative feature of the exhibition was that all of the content including the object labels was quoted directly from the letters and journals.
Because the Church Missionary Society archives are in the southern city of Dunedin, and the site of the story is in the Bay of Islands, Northland, a travelling version of the exhibition was sent to public libraries, heritage sites and marae in Northland. 13,000 copies of the exhibition poster were distributed in the local newspaper; allowing the exhibition to reach into the communities who have the greatest connections with the story of the exhibition. Concurrently a website was developed in collaboration with researchers to improve access to around one third of the documents in the archive. Using Fedora Commons, Islandora, Drupal and Solr the site allows full text searching and download of Marsden’s letters and journals, as well as the papers of other early NZ missionaries, amounting to 3,728 pages freely downloadable text and images.


Anna Blackman is the Head Curator Archives at the Hocken Collections – Uare Taoka o Hākena, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand. Anna is currently a member of the Archives Council Te Rua Wānanga; and of the Advisory Group to the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa/NZ Research Centre. Anna was previously the Archivist (1989-1998) and Information / Business Analyst (1998 – 2001) at the Dunedin City Council. Anna studied Fine Art (University of Canterbury), graduated BA (Hons) History and Phenomenology of Religion (University of Otago) and Grad Dip (Archives Administration) University of New South Wales.

b. Crowdsourcing Design in China: Case Study of “My Peking Memory”, by Jian Chen

Community cultural records are an important carrier of culture and memory of a community or a nation, carrying the spiritual gene and soul of human civilization. With the advancement of urbanization and modernization, many community cultural records are at risk of disappearing completely. How to effectively collect, rescue and make them available has become a matter of urgency. Based on the analysis of the value, significance and difficulties of the utilization of community cultural records, this paper discusses the necessity and feasibility of using crowdsourcing to enhance the effectiveness of the construction and utilization of community digital cultural records. Using the interactive website of "My Peking Memory" from Renmin University of China as an example, I will analyse the design and  implementation strategies of the crowdsourcing model for collecting, describing and displaying community digital cultural records. Finally, problems, shortcomings and improvement countermeasures are discussed.


Jian Chen is an assistant professor at the School of History and Culture, Shandong University of China and a visiting scholar at Monash University. His research area is the participatory culture in archives.


c. Keep Dialects Alive: Chinese Experience in Building Dialect Archives, by Yujiao Du

This is a case study of Chinese dialect archives. As we all know, there are 129 kinds of dialects and 5 language families of languages in China. Therefore, it’s necessary to build dialect archives to keep social memory and it can provide experience for constructing other indigenous languages.
At present, some achievements have been gotten in some district such as Zhejiang province and Jiangsu province in China but there are still many problems which need to be solved in the future. For example, there are no uniform standards for constructing dialect archives so it’s difficult to manage these records better. What’s more, some districts are using the same dialect but they are building dialect archives separately. It is inefficient and it leads to the archives of this dialect being divided.
In my opinion, not only should archives manage the project of archiving dialects but also language councils or relevant language departments should join this work and help archives with providing professional knowledge such as category and structure of dialects. In a word, Archives need to collaborate with other organizations. And the best way to build dialect archives is keeping both audio-video and digital text. The audio-video should include the pronunciation, dialect speaking expression and the translations while the text should include the dialect words, grammars and versions.
There are three stages of constructing Chinese dialect archives. The first stage is preserving. In this stage,we collect the records of dialect and transfer them to archives or archive department. While collecting, language departments should work with archives and help choose the samples. The next stage is protecting. Dialects are regarded as a kind of intangible heritage so we should not just hold them but pay attention to protect them. In this stage, archives can collaborate with intangible cultural heritage protection association especially in technical aspect. The final stage is exploitation and utilization. In this stage, language department can give some advice and archives make the archives of dialect available. The way of using these archives can be multicultural and it should aim to meet users’ need and enhance the vitality of dialects.


Yujiao Du is a postgraduate student who is majoring in Archive Science in the School of Information Management in Sun Yat-Sen University and will start PhD training from the fall semester of 2019.