15 February 2017

Digirati to build Indigenous Digital Archive platform

Digirati are building a new open source crowdsourcing platform for the Indigenous Digital Archive, a project of the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in Santa Fe. The project will enable engagement with authentic public documents of community history, government actions, and civic life in New Mexico. The first phase will focus on open public records related to land and to the government Indian Boarding Schools from the late 1800s into the 1920s and 30s.

The project aims to create effective access to digital images of over 120 linear feet of government records on microfilm. These records have never before been readily available to the people and communities they relate to. Native Americans and other volunteers will be directly working with the platform on this material as part of the crowdsourcing activities and the results will be available to all.

Pupils in front of Pratt's Quarters Carlisle Indian School

Dr Naruta-Moya, who is the project director, engaged with other institutions such as Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Cornell, and the National Library of Wales in the run up to this project. She looked at how they are using open technologies and standards for similar projects so that what we build can be optimised in terms of positive impact for the wider cultural heritage community. As a consequence, we will release a number of open source components as part of this project that will be useful to all manner of crowdsourcing projects in the future. Furthermore, the platform will be built on open standards such as the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) and W3C Annotations.

The solution takes advantage of Digital Library Cloud Services (DLCS) components that are integrated with the Omeka S Collection Management System to provide a IIIF-powered collaborative archive platform. The structure of the archive itself will be generated by users of the platform, archival units are then identified from larger sets by volunteers and project administrators, along with tagging through annotations.

The project makes use of Natural Language Processing features of the DLCS based on the Optical Character Recognition results where the text is typewritten and reasonably legible. This will give the crowdsourcing activities a significant head start. This process can be seen in action in this Images First presentation.

We are very excited to have the opportunity to work on this project. These records are essential to understanding the experiences and impact of the post-Indian Wars period of interactions with the federal government. And timing is also very important to take advantage of the understanding tribal elders who have first-hand stories and family oral histories of these events bring to this time in history. We will be setting up a dedicated blog for regular updates and plan to have some working software to show by the Spring.

The project is funded by an IMLS National Leadership Grant and further prototyping funding from the Knight Foundation. The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture is conducting the Indigenous Digital Archive project in collaboration with the New Mexico State Library Tribal Libraries Program and the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center.