ATSILIRN Protocol 12: The digital environment

Protocol 12 is about Indigenous collections in the digital environment. This includes digitised collection materials, born-digital items and digital access to materials. While increased access to collections is generally a positive aspect of the digital revolution of the past few decades, there are a few important things to consider when dealing with Indigenous materials.

As we learned in Protocol 11, digitisation and digital access can assist in the repatriation of collection materials to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, and preservation for future generations. Digitised material must be handled and stored in keeping with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural protocols, however, including not providing online access to items deemed to be secret, sacred or sensitive.

Libraries should consult with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities about any digital content that might be made available online, including on websites or in social media. Where material is accessible online, it should be preceded by a notice advising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander users of potentially sensitive or distressing content, such as images, sounds and names of deceased persons; images of people who have not yet been identified; and historical images containing nudity.

Libraries have a responsibility to educate our users of about the potential risks of sharing digital content online, such as not being able to control who accesses it or how they may re-purpose it. We need to work with communities to promote the creation, collection and appropriate management of digital materials.

In the video below, Denien Toomath talks about the importance of making digital materials accessible to communities, and how digital repatriation can help libraries gain valuable insights into the materials they hold.