Posted: November 9, 2015 -- letizia

WSU researchers have received a $69,500 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation—the first from the foundation to WSU—to support planning of a shared online platform for the curation, management and preservation of Native American library and archive collections.

The Mellon grant covers planning activities through December 2016 for Mukurtu CMS, a free, open-source, standards-based platform for managing digital content specifically for the cultural needs of indigenous communities. The award is also the first grant for WSU’s new Center for Digital Scholarship and Curation (CDSC), formed last year by the College of Arts and Sciences and WSU Libraries.

For more about Mukurtu CMS and the CDSC, visit http://www.mukurtu.org/ and http://libraries.wsu.edu/cdsc.

Planning activities will include identifying high-level needs to extend a regional portal model to several institutions, assessing collections priorities for test cases, defining the necessary technical and functional needs to extend Mukurtu CMS 2.0.2 and holding design and user-testing workshops to determine workflow, usability and scalability for implementation.

Kimberly Christen Withey, CDSC co-director, said the Mellon proposal stemmed from the direct needs of both indigenous and non-indigenous collecting institutions as they seek to share collections in meaningful and ethical ways. Over the last five years, the WSU team worked directly with local partners to extend the platform’s reach throughout the Inland Northwest through the Plateau Peoples’ Web Portal.

“This work has revolved around seeking solutions not just to the technical concerns of these institutions and communities, but also to providing workflows and models for the ethical curation, narration and vetting of content for cultural sensitivities, linguistic concerns and historical context,” Christen Withey said. “This is a technology project that is not about technology. It’s about people, promoting dialogue and collaboration.”

“Working with Mukurtu CMS raises awareness of unknown, hidden collections and acknowledges that these collections are best described by the tribes from which they were taken from,” said Trevor Bond, CDSC co-director and head of WSU Manuscripts, Archives and Special Collections.

“Mukurtu CMS stretches the definition of library software, bringing it to a national scale,” said Alex Merrill, WSU head of systems and technical operations.

Partners for the CDSC initiative include the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Anthropological Archives and National Museum of the American Indian, the American Philosophical Society, the Yale Indian Papers Project, Western Washington University, University of Washington Libraries, University of Oregon Libraries, the Makah Cultural Resource Center, the Ziibiwing Center of Anishanabe Culture and Lifeways, the California Indian Museum and Cultural Center, the Nakwatsvewat Institute and the Digital Public Library of America.