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Living Archives: A Community-Based Language Archive Model Mary S. Linn Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History University of Oklahoma. LDLT3 Workshop on Language Documentation and Archiving November 18, 2011 . Goals.

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Living Archives: A Community-Based

Language Archive Model

Mary S. Linn

Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

University of Oklahoma

LDLT3 Workshop on Language Documentation and Archiving

November 18, 2011


  • Propose a community-based language archive model, based on Czaykowska-Higgins (2009)

  • Situate endangered language archives in larger traditions of language research and memory institutions

  • Argue that such archives are on the forefront of the emerging role of participatory delivery of information that make all archives relevant today, and thus we have an advocacy role in defending the continued need for archives


  • Language archive

    • Any holdings of primary and secondary language documentation materials of traditional memory institutions

      • libraries, special collections within libraries, archives, and museums.

  • Archivist

    • Any person active in the collection, arrangement, maintenance, or dissemination of these holdings.

Social science research
Social Science Research

  • Czaykowska-Higgins (2009) situates linguistic field research within other social science research models that involve community engagement and response

    • Participatory Research - community members participate in the design of research

    • Participatory Action Research - empowering communities in the design of the research and the results

    • Community-Based Research - Focus on community and equal roles of researcher and community experts

Language research 5 levels
Language Research – 5 Levels

  • Linguist-focused model

    • linguist comes to a community as the expert

    • detached in the name of scientific objectivity

    • linguist is responsible for the veracity of his/her data and analyses, and therefore primarily to the scientific community and not the language community (pp. 20-22)

  • Ethical Linguist-Focused Research

    • centered on the language and its speakers as subjects of research

    • linguist works to minimize any damage or inconvenience of their research or presence (p. 22-23).

Language research
Language Research

  • Advocacy Research

    • research is now on, but also for communities.

    • Empowering Research

      • language research for and with the community

      • research is embedded in community needs

      • linguist may actively teach community members in linguistics and language teaching methodology (pp. 23-24)

Okbol learning to use archives
OKBOL Learning to Use Archives

Language research1
Language Research

5 Community-Based Language Research (CBLR)

  • Research that is on a language, and that is conducted for, with, and by the language-speaking community within which the research takes place and which it affects

  • Goal of CBLR in most endangered language communities is to help bring about community-driven social change through maintaining, revitalizing, or renewing language.

Memory institutions
Memory Institutions

  • Digital revolution is transforming memory institutions with the same transformational questions and implementation

  • Literally, a world of new users

    • Institutional website as portals

    • On-line catalogs

    • Digital data available on-line

    • On-line exhibits


  • Participatory Archives (Theimer 2011: 9)

    • Any organization, site, or collection in which people other than archive professionals contribute knowledge or resources, resulting in increased understanding about archival materials, usually in an online environment

Participatory archiving
Participatory Archiving

  • Participatory Archiving Model (Shilton and Srinivasan2007)

    • Involve community in the creation of archives through involving targeted members in what to collect

    • Build culturally relevant records repositories

  • Involve community at all stages of archiving:

    • Appraisal - choice of what is acquired and archived and what is not

    • Arrangement - organizing a collection

    • Description - the ethnographic/historical information and metadata about the items


  • Some archives have very little choice if they rely solely on what is given to them

  • Others have mandates to build collections or fill in gaps with certain a particular focus, and some have acquisition budgets to do so. In these cases, the archivist shapes the record.

Appraisal in language documentation
Appraisal in Language Documentation

  • What a linguist and speakers record together becomes the record of the language (Mithun 2001).

    • CBLR ameliorates by putting community in control of what gets recorded.

  • Our current need to document endangered languages can be reframed as an attempt to address the gravest gap in shaping the historical and cultural record of humankind.

    • Endangered language archives should be at the forefront of this redress


  • An archivist traditionally keeps original order, labeling, and descriptions of the creator for provenance (linguist-centered approach).

  • New collaborative projects the order and description can and should make sense to the community

  • Legacy collections can do both with digital record keeping.


  • Adding to existing and legacy collections

  • Beyond the harm to an archivist of lost contextual knowledge and a consequently distorted historical record, marginalization of the dispossessed within traditional repositories of historical memory robs communities of their cultural identity (p. 89)

Participatory archives
Participatory Archives

  • Participatory Archive (Huvila 2008)

    • Focus on archive as a whole, not just process in collecting and creating

Decentralized curation
Decentralized Curation

  • Curatorial responsibilities are shared between archivists and the participants in an archive.

  • Not the individuals but the collective has the most in-depth knowledge about the records or items, their contexts, and uses

  • ‘Information managers’

    • maintain technical platforms

    • provide tools for working with the archive

    • have no greater role or claim to expertise than anyone else

Radical user orientation
Radical User Orientation

  • Usability and findability is the highest priority

    • Guides even appraisal and preservation choices

    • ‘Oriented and reoriented to its users all the time’ (p. 26)

  • Archivist Code of Ethics

    • Promote the use of records is a fundamental purpose of the keeping of archives

    • [Archivists] should observe faithfully and apply impartially all the agreements made at the time of the acquisition, but, in the interest of liberalisation of access, should renegotiate conditions in accordance with changes of circumstance. (International Council of Archives, Code 6, 1996: 2)

Community based language archives cbla
Community-Based Language Archives(CBLA)

  • Actively engages with the community on all levels of documentation, describing and contextualizing, maintenance of, and dissemination of information

  • Defined as an archive, or collection within an archive, that is on a language, and that cares for and disseminates documentation that is conducted for, with, and bythe language-speaking community within which the documentation takes place and which it affects

  • Accessibility is expanded and achieved through community members as primary shapers and users of the archives with the goal of sustaining and renewing endangered languages.

Community based language archives
Community-Based Language Archives

  • New Documentation and Archive projects

    • Archives should be involved at all stages: grant-writing, designing what is collected, how, how it will be accessed

  • Legacy archives – transforming older collections

    • Carolyn Quintero Osage Collection

  • CBLA is in keeping with the Protocols for Native American Archives (First Archivists Circle 2007).


  • Michael Kurtz keynote address to the US National Archives and Records Administration (2011) calls on leaders in the archival and preservation community to be able to articulate why archives play a critical role in society

  • We cannot take for granted that memory institutions will continue or the funding that backs language documentation and description, or really any social science research


  • The role of archives has continuously changed to be relevant with the introduction of new media, concepts of access, and changing user populations

  • Endangered language archives are positioned to participate in and articulate this shift most clearly

    • We address a huge gap in the understanding of what it means to be human

    • We bridge social science, science, and humanities (in content and application of field)

    • Archives are the product of documentary linguists

    • We work with and serve communities directly

      • Draw on the enormous pool of expertise

      • Giving new voice (and new voices) of marginalized communities to the wider public