MIRA: how digital technologies can help preserve cultural heritage

CSRAnnouncing the launch of MIRA: an innovative and sustainable digital solution for the repatriation of indigenous creative and cultural content, and the largest digital repository of its kind in the world.

FORM is an independent, non-profit cultural organisation established in 1968 that develops creativity and artistic practice in Western Australia. I was based at FORM last year, as a Fellow of the International Creative Entrepreneurs Programme, and lucky enough to work on a new phase of their award winning Canning Stock Route project. Beginning in 2006, the Project sought to explore the history of Western Australia’s red desert interior from an Aboriginal perspective. The resulting exhibition of paintings, film, oral histories, photography and interactive multimedia went on to break attendance records across the country and was acquired by the National Museum of Australia as a ‘national treasure’.

The new phase of the Canning Stock Route Project aimed to reverse a decades-long trend of extracting cultural knowledge from communities, by using digital technologies to repatriate the Project’s materials through a vast digital archive. I wrote about my experiences of working on the Project here, attending community consultations to establish a legal, cultural and technological framework for the ambitious archive. This result is MIRA – launched this week, and the largest digital repository of its kind in the world.

MIRA

Released as an evolving archive, MIRA currently contains around 5,000 items. By its completion in December, Mira will contain over 10,000 videos, more than 300 oral histories, 20,000 images as well as a huge range of cultural research, historical data, and curated digital heritage items, relating to 17 remote communities and 15 language groups across Western Australia. The archive will not only preserve invaluable cultural material but enable Aboriginal people involved with the Canning Stock Route Project to locate and access material relating to their own families. Additionally, a significant amount of the content in MIRA will be accessible to the general public. MIRA has been developed in partnership with the Center for Digital Archaeology (CoDA) at University of California Berkeley. An iPhone and iPad app of The Canning Stock Route Project has also been launched.

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