Australian Aborigines archive

I have been thinking again about the openness of archives which is what I based my symposium talk on in February. I discussed the dissemination of different kinds of photography archives and what extent to which the material was ‘free’, but what I didn’t talk about was audience themselves and their reasons for wanting the archives to be free and available at all. Before Christmas I spoke with Aaron Guy, who is researching for his PhD in the dissemination of archives, and he reminded me of three levels of audience’s interests: academic, community and individual. He said that this is one of the first things that should be addressed before thinking critically about how an archive can then be disseminated.

I remember listening to a podcast shortly after my conversation with Aaron about developing a digital archive for the Australian aborigines. Unfortunately, the talk is no longer available on the podcast for me to listen to again, so I am going to dwell on the main points which struck me as interesting. The talk discussed the aims of the archive to be tailored for the communities themselves so that they can access their history and add to it. However, in the aborigine culture, once a relative has passed away, they are not allowed to see pictures of that family member again, but other non-relatives can. This makes it difficult to open archives digitally as each user will need to have an individual experience. Nevertheless, they work with software developers so that users have an account which will filter or disguise their deceased relatives. This requires the help of the community to give a history of who people are so that appropriate metadata is added to aid this filtering process to users.

The point of using this case study is that it is important to consider who the audience is when deciding to disseminate and share an archive. If this archive was not going to be accessed by the communities and used solely for academic research then the ways the archive would be presented would be completely different, as would its metadata and so on.



Charles Darwin University. (2014) Living Archive of AboriginalĀ Languages. Available online:

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