Digital tracking: preserving culture in the internet era

Wednesday, 1 June 2016
Dr Michael Bennett

The nature of historical research has changed dramatically in the past decade.  While old fashioned archival research remains important (and enjoyable) more material than ever before is available on-line via sites such as Trove and, and the pace of digitisation is picking up.  Historical websites (such as the Wellington Valley Project) are also important sources of information and analysis.  The NTSCORP research team has recently completed a joint two year project with the Indigenous Unit of NSW Police investigating the history of Aboriginal trackers between 1862 and 1973.  Over 1,000 Aboriginal men worked for the police during this time looking for people lost in the bush, tracking criminals and training police horses.  Some trackers combined police with ceremonial obligations and their stories form connection evidence for native title applications.  The project has led to the creation of a map-based website called Pathfinders which opens up the fascinating history of trackers to a wider audience.  Community consultation was an important part of the project to ensure that stories were presented in an appropriate manner.  The website potentially shows a way forward for bodies corporate to preserve and display some of the connection material collected through native title in a relatively inexpensive way.  Possibilities include biographical information about apical ancestors, language and sites of significance.   Once created, many websites are easy to update and do not require extensive technological knowledge.  An exciting future awaits.