Tribal Collections [Series]: Sustainable Heritage Network

This series on tribal collections highlights three projects from across the libraries, archives, and museums space that focus on Native American communities and culture, using best practices set forth by the First Archivists Circle’s Protocols for Native American Archival Materials. (Post 1: The Indigenous Digital Archive, Post 2: Warm Springs Sound Archives Preservation Project)

Post 3 of 3: Sustainable Heritage Network

Image of the Sustainable Heritage Network (SHN) logo - three overlapping light blue circles surrounded by a red circle

The Sustainable Heritage Network Logo

Several partners are involved in the SHN in addition to Washington State University, including:The Sustainable Heritage Network (SHN) is a grant-funded, “Collaborative Stewardship” program that invests in training and equipping tribal representatives (especially archivists, librarians, and museum specialists) to manage their own digitization efforts instead of outsourcing to non-tribal service providers, an approach known as the “indigitization” model.

The SHN is managed by the Center for Digital Scholarship and Curation at Washington State University. A 2012 report by the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries and Museums (ATALM), titled “Sustaining Indigenous Culture,” revealed a need among tribal memory institutions for easily accessible and online training materials for digitization and digital preservation of cultural heritage assets (see About SHN). In response to this need, the SHN was formed to provide open access online tutorials, articles, and other educational web resources, as well as both virtual and in-person workshops dedicated to the digital stewardship lifecycle, including digital tools and digital preservation. The main purpose of the Sustainable Heritage Network is to “… bring together communities, institutions, and professionals to support each other by sharing knowledge, educational resources, and technology necessary for the responsible digitization and preservation of cultural heritage.” (About SHN)

  • Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries and Museums
  • Center for Digital Archaeology
  • University of Oregon Libraries
  • Alaska Native Language Archives
  • California Indian Museum and Cultural Center
  • Native American Archives Roundtable
  • Society of American Archivists

A team of expert advisors to the SHN include representatives from:

  • California Digital Library
  • Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums
  • Alaska Native Heritage Archive at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks
  • Dalhouse University
  • Western Washington University
  • California Indian Museum and Cultural Center
  • University of Oregon
  • Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian
  • University of Texas
  • Library of Congress
  • LYRASIS

All of the resources compiled by the SHN are made freely available to the public online at their website. Resources are organized by area of focus, providing materials such as slides, checklists, guides, how-tos, case studies, blogs, and recommended best practices for digitizing and preserving photographs and images, audio recordings, artifacts and objects, books and documents, general processing, language documentation, and GIS, CMS, and Databases. The site also provides information about all of the different communities involved, providing a platform for connecting people as well as resources and information.

The indigitization model and programs like the SHN contribute to information reliability, access, and social justice because they entrust the stewardship of cultural heritage resources in the digital age to the people who belong to the culture from which the materials were produced, and thus have the highest stake in their preservation as well as how and by whom materials can be accessed. The digitization of indigenous cultural heritage materials and documents not only helps to preserve the data about the artifacts, it also can make items more accessible for the people who need access. With software solutions such as Mukurtu, which enables access restrictions that are determined by the tribes, cultural protocols can be respected when certain materials should not be made widely accessible.

The SHN spreads knowledge and expertise in these areas, with repatriation of cultural materials in the form of knowledge about how to best preserve and provide access to these materials. In general, the program is broadening awareness of cultural heritage, and empowering people to take ownership of their cultural heritage, bringing Native perspectives and reclaiming language and culture in the digital world (A Visit to the CIMCC).

Learn more about the Sustainable Heritage Network:

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