True as nan: Recognising the authority of Aboriginal memory in our GLAM spaces

Tuesday, 21 March 2017
Damien Webb

Despite ongoing efforts to make GLAM (Gallery, Library, Archive and Museum) spaces more inclusive and respectful of Indigenous knowledge there remains a deep disconnect between Indigenous heritage collections and living knowledge/memory. There is a reflexive tendency to dismiss the authority of Indigenous knowledge, or to demand evidence which legitimises this history in the context of Western literacy. The resulting view affects everything from description, to access, housing and preservation.

Assuming that community memory is valid and valuable (though often incomplete) is a powerful way to challenge inherited and ongoing issues. Community memory and research can complement each other and understanding the parallel provenances of our collections has profound implications for institutions and researchers. This shift has been accelerated by changes in technology which help to elevate and legitimise the stories and memories of Indigenous communities.

The State Library’s Storylines Project has been working in this space for the last five years and this presentation will discuss some of the impacts of engaging directly with Indigenous communities to tell their stories. It will also explore the implications of this kind of work for research, parallel provenance, digital literacy and cultural revitalisation.