Session 4.4- On the path to truth and reconciliation: experiences in Canada, Liberia and New Zealand


Talei Masters, Proscovia Svärd, Raegan Swanson

Date Added:

23 October 2019

Chair: Jennifer O’Neal, Assistant Professor, University of Oregon


a. Kei tua o te whakamāoritia: e pehea ana Te Rua Mahara kia whakapai ake ngā tikanga me ngā ratonga ka taea kia tutuki ai ngā hiahia o Te Ao Māori. Beyond translation: How Archives New Zealand is improving its culture, systems and services, by Talei Masters

Kei tua o te whakamāoritia: e pehea ana Te Rua Mahara kia whakapai ake ngā tikanga me ngā ratonga ka taea kia tutuki ai ngā hiahia o Te Ao Māori
Beyond translation: How Archives New Zealand is improving its culture, systems and services to try to meet the needs of iwi/Māori.  Archives New Zealand, Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga (Archives) holds the archives of the New Zealand Government. The Public Records Act 2005 (PRA) sets the framework for contemporary recordkeeping across government and Archives works with government agencies to administer the Act. Its holdings include the originals of Te Tiriti o Waitangi/the Treaty of Waitangi (Te Tiriti), government documents, maps, paintings, photographs and film. This includes a range of information relating to Māori iwi, hapū and individuals. Some of that information is considered taonga tuku iho (treasures handed down to successive generations from ancestors) so it carries additional significance and management consideration.

Archives has a special relationship with Māori as partners with the Crown under Te Tiriti. There are specific provisions in the PRA for recognising and respecting the Crown’s responsibility to take account of Te Tiriti. One of these is realised through a Māori advisory council to the Chief Archivist, Te Pae Whakawairua. Archives has built knowledge through enabling treaty claim research and work on treaty settlement commitments. However, this presentation will explain how Archives’ strategic approach to meeting the needs of Māori iwi and hapū has changed recently. Primarily, this was prompted by aspirations in Archives 2057, its long-term strategy, published in 2017, such that: “Māori use, trust and co-create government information, are kaitiaki of taonga and benefit from iwi-based knowledge.“ This requires the development of strong capability among Archives’ staff to co-design initiatives with Māori and collaboration with Māori to develop description that is appropriate for the records and communities to which they relate. This presentation will outline how these and other steps are being achieved or planned.  This includes a partnership with a Māori university, internal groups to focus on Te Ao Māori issues (such as improving access and creating digitisation principles), and an arrangement for working with other culture and heritage agencies, Te Ara Taonga.

The presentation will explain how procurement activity for a new archives integrated management system prompted more detailed consideration of indigenous data governance and how Māori might value information. It required discussion with iwi-Māori and other organisations about the issues to consider over the storage location of archival metadata. The presentation will outline work to improve capability for the capture of and access to Māori metadata, including user-generated metadata. The presentation will note aspirations for enabling communication of cultural protocols and for facilitating different interactions with archival metadata using ontologies.


Talei Masters has been a Senior Archivist at Archives New Zealand since 2012. From 2003 to 2012 she worked in the UK as a local government archivist and records manager. At Archives New Zealand Talei has contributed to the development of digital archive transfer policy, process, guidance and tools. Talei currently contributes to several strategic projects aiming to improve government information management. From 2014 to 2017 Talei was Secretary-General to the Pacific Regional Branch of the International Council on Archives (PARBICA), during which time she organised or facilitated training in the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Fiji.


b. The Exiled Truth and Reconciliation Commission Documentation: The Case of Liberia, by Proscovia Svärd

The study aims to investigate how an underdeveloped information management infrastructure led to the expatriation of the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC’s) documentation. The Liberian TRC produced a historical narrative through consultations with Liberians within the country and those in the diaspora. It generated digital content that can be accessed on its website, including over 850 videos of commission hearings, proceedings, and related events, eyewitness testimony, and ceremonies. However, the entire documentation was transferred to St. Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, in the United States. This is the first time a sovereign country has handed over its entire TRC documentation to a foreign power. The TRC documentation is supposed to create an understanding of the causes of war, counteract speculations, and facilitate reconciliation. It is a basis upon which the victims can apply for reparations, justice can be pursued, and it is important to the work of the Liberian Human Rights Commission. The reconstruction of post-conflict societies is a long-time commitment especially where reconciliation and the democratization of society are concerned.  The effective use of the TRC documentation as an education tool, at all levels of society is one way to fight the culture of impunity and to avoid regression to conflict. Therefore, there should be a well-functioning information management infrastructure at the commencement of the TRC process.  The issue of information/documentation management has largely been neglected in peace research but remains crucial to the production of knowledge on post-conflict transition on the African continent. The management of the documentation generated by TRCs still poses a challenge that should be discussed since TRCs continue to be implemented on the African continent as transitional justice mechanisms. It is not enough to capture the experiences of the war victims but social and economic injustices that cause the conflicts should be addressed. Post-conflict countries often lack an information infrastructure and information access laws to facilitate the management, use, dissemination, and preservation of TRC findings. The study will apply a case study method and interviews as a data collecting technique.


Proscovia Svärd is a Senior Lecturer and Researcher at the Faculty of Science, Technology and Media, Department of Information Systems and Technology, Forum for Digitalization, Mid Sweden University. She completed her Post-doctoral Research at the School of Interdisciplinary Research and Postgraduate Studies, University of South Africa, between 2016-2017. She is a Research Fellow at the Department of Information Science, University of South Africa. She has worked as an Archivist at the Nordic Africa Research Institute in Uppsala, Sweden, Research Administrator for the Program on Post-Conflict Transition, the State and Civil Society, Project Co-ordinator for a Nordic Documentation Project on the Liberation Struggles in Southern Africa ( She completed her PhD at the University of Amsterdam. She has a Licentiate Degree in Computer and Systems Sciences, BA and MA in Archives and Information Science from Mid Sweden University, Sweden and a BSc in Media and Information Science from Uppsala University, Sweden.


c. Building Trust, Creating Foundations: Canadian Archivists respond to the TRC's Calls to Action, by Raegan Swanson

With the 2015 release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Summary of the Final Report, the Canadian archival community was directly challenged via “Call to Action #70” to re-assess its professional status quo as it relates to its relationship with Indigenous Peoples in Canada. Since then, the Steering Committee on Canada’s Archives’ Response to the Report on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Taskforce (TRC-TF) has been diligently working to meet this challenge and heed the “Calls to Action". This paper will focus on the work of the TRC-TF – from experiential learning to outcomes realized.


Raegan Swanson serves as the Executive Director of The ArQuives: Canada's LGBTQ2 Archive. She holds a BA from the Collège universitaire de Saint-Boniface and a Masters of Information from the University of Toronto iSchool. She has worked as an Archivist at Library and Archives Canada, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Aanischaaukamikw Cree Cultural Institute and as the Archival Advisor for the Council of Archives New Brunswick. She is currently working on her PhD focusing on the role of community archives in Aboriginal and Inuit communities. She is member of the Steering Committee on Canada’s Archives Taskforce to respond to the “Calls to Action” Report from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.