Session 3.8 - Archives and digitization: their role in culture and language preservation


Hemi Jury, Kathryn Lagrandeur, Ellen Røsjø - Grete Gunn Bergstrøm,

Date Added:

24 October 2019

Chair: Njörður Sigurðsson, Director of Acquisition & Access, National Archives of Iceland


a. Language is a treasure, and the language of treasures | He taonga te reo, me te reo o ngā taonga, by Hemi Jury

In light of UNESCO International Year of Indigenous Languages, I found myself wondering, how does the Archive of Māori & Pacific Sound, where I work, facilitate the preservation, revitalisation and promotion of indigenous languages?  The epiphany began with my personal commitment to Te Reo Māori, the Māori language.  If I couldn’t commit some effort to improving my knowledge of Te Reo Māori, what chance did the archive ever have? At this point I chose to study with the aim of combining my Māori language quest with my job and enrolled in a course, run in English, that allowed assignments to be submitted in Māori.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered there are concepts and ideas in the industry that have no Māori translation.  It seemed that the archive was already providing challenges for me and the language.  So I looked to the archive’s collection for assistance.

The archive’s artifacts are a testament to the special and unique nature of the indigenous material recorded on them.  In Māori, these artifacts are described as taonga or treasures, and as such, are afforded certain attributes ordinarily reserved for the living.  Recognising that taonga have their own prestige and authority, life essence and status which facilitates a specific interaction.  These taonga gain life through interaction with people and as a caretaker or Kaitiaki, I’m ideally placed to match the right taonga with the right people, especially as I learn more about the Māori language. The embedded knowledge contained in the archive’s songs, speeches and performances are being considered for their potential as Māori subject headings.  Staff are learning aspects of formal oratory for use in the traditional welcome and they use prayers from the archive, and have learnt some of the untold stories, like why Māori women composed powerful songs that have endured for generations.  These stories are known to descendants and kin groups that provide an opportunity for community outreach and collaboration. As we learn the Māori language through the archives’ collection, we become the voice of the archive, and invite you to come and hear how revitalising and promotion of the Māori language is also about revitalising and promoting ourselves.


Archive of Māori & Pacific Sound, Libraries & Learning Services

Hemi Juri: Ko Ngā Puhi, Ngāti Kahungunu ki Te Wairoa me Tūhoe ōku iwi. Kei te noho au ki Tāmakimakaurau. Kei te mahi au kei te Archive of Māori & Pacific Sound

Hemi Juri: Ngā Puhi, Ngāti Kahungunu in Wairoa and Tūhoe were my people, I live in Auckland and I am working in the Archive of Māori & Pacific Sound


b. Designing Archival Services to Support Digitization of Indigenous Language Documentary Heritage, by Kathryn Lagrandeur

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has launched two three-year initiatives to support the digitization and preservation of Indigenous documentary heritage in Canada. The first initiative, called We are Here: Sharing Stories, seeks to digitize documentary heritage within LAC collections related to First Nations, Inuit and the Métis Nation in Canada. The second initiative focuses on documentary heritage outside of LAC collections. Entitled Listen, Hear our Voices, this initiative seeks to offer digitization services related to existing audio or audiovisual recordings in Indigenous languages in Canada.

At first glance, both initiatives align with known archival practice: the digitization and preservation of documentary heritage, either to support greater access or because the material is at risk due to a lack of resources or obsolescent formats. However, the spirit of reconciliation at the heart of the initiatives calls for a new approach to archival practice, one designed around open and honest collaboration with First Nations, Inuit and the Métis Nation in Canada. In this spirit, LAC established an Indigenous Advisory Circle that offers advice and guidance on the initiatives; based on their insight, LAC continues to adapt its approach to these archival initiatives to ensure we are working in a way that respects and supports their perspectives and needs.

With respect to Listen, Hear our Voices, the principal subject of this proposal, LAC recognized the importance of building a relationship of trust in order to provide archival services to First Nations, Inuit and the Métis Nation in Canada, and this is a key design principle of the initiative. To that end, LAC recruited seven Indigenous archivists who are working on the initiative from within their traditional territories across Canada. LAC is also seeking collaborative arrangements with Indigenous organizations within these territories who are offering a workspace to the archivists in exchange for in-kind contributions to their own archival priorities.

This talk will provide an overview of how LAC designed the initiatives and what has been accomplished so far on Listen, Hear our Voices. It will also include discussion on how LAC redesigned planned services in response to guidance from the Indigenous Advisory Circle, what was learned, and how Indigenous perspectives can enhance archival practice. The presentation should generate discussion among international colleagues on how archival practice may be redesigned to support the long-term preservation of Indigenous documentary heritage.


Kathryn Lagrandeur is the director responsible for social life and culture private archives at Library and Archives Canada (LAC). She has led several projects at LAC, including the chair of the Canadian mirror committee for ISO/TC46/SC11; the Aboriginal Documentary Heritage pathfinder; the development of disposition authorizations for Government of Canada departments and the development of policy instruments on archival appraisal, information management, access and description. She is currently leading the project Listen, Hear our Voices; its objective is to support the digitization of sound and audiovisual recordings in Indigenous languages. She holds a PhD in French Studies from Queen’s University (Canada), where she defended a dissertation on Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize laureate (1986).

c. Indigenous material - challenges and possibilities, by Ellen Røsjø - Grete Gunn Bergstrøm

The talk will be about The Sámi people and archives, appraisal and access. The new possibilities in cross-border activities as in a new Interreg project Digital Access to Sami Heritage Archives that seeks to improve the accessibility of the Sámi cultural heritage. Some methodological challenges will be discussed and the need for ethical guidelines om metadata production and publishing.


Ellen Røsjø

Ellen Røsjø is a senior advisor in the National Archives of Norway. She is a coordinator for work with private archives in Norwegian archives, museums and libraries. She led the private archives part of the project SAMDOK (an inegrated societal documentation 2013-2017). Ellen has worked with both private and government archives and outreach since 1988, for 21 years in Oslo City Archives, for 10 years as head of the historical archives section. She was a project leader for the Oslo Multicultural Archives Project 2004-2007.

Grete Gunn Bergstrøm

Grete Gunn Bergstrøm works as an archivist for the Sami archives in the National Archives of Norway. Her academic background is from philosophy, cultural understanding and social science. She has researched traditional knowledge in a modern Sami society context and is interested in the search and use and of archives as a source of social, cultural and political revitalization, formation and knowledge development for indigenous peoples.