“Information is ours collectively to share”

The archivists at the Musée Héritage Museum had the pleasure of attending the Association of Canadian Archivists (ACA) national conference held in Edmonton from June 7 – 9, 2018. This year’s theme was “Truths, Trust, and Technology”.

Technology is being used to advance all facets of life, and the archives is no different. This conference had some interesting presentations and discussions on how technology can help the archives, and also the potential challenges to keep in mind.

Some of the cooler things we saw was how data could be mined from archival records. People are using things like block-chain technology and other computational methods to create some really interesting products. One example showed a project that used computational methods on over 25,000 internment camp cards of Japanese Americans during the Second World War. They used software to recognize patterns and identities, and then using this information they were able to map out where people were specifically located in each internment camp and also the relationships between those detained.

The web archives was another topic covered, with historians, archivists, and computer scientists combining their talents in order to create tools so that historical content available on the web is more easily searchable by users. The particular challenge here is the unstructured nature of the web.

Some of the most significant sessions dealt with “Data Sovereignty for Indigenous Sovereignty”. James Delorme, former Chief of the Klahoose First Nation and an Indigenous Entrepreneur, reminded us all that protocol is very important to Indigenous Peoples.

The fact that we always recognize the territory and peoples of an area we are standing on is a significant act. Also significant is the act of holding respect to our elders, youth, and leaders.

So it is with all of this knowledge in mind, and Indigenous consultation, that we have to consider how technology can benefit Indigenous Peoples.

Chief James Delorme

Delorme then moved onto the notion of intellectual property. Who really owns intellectual property in the context of truth and reconciliation? The answer is the ancestors! No one person owns it on their own, it is ours collectively to share and use to build off. So that’s something all of us have to keep in mind.

Indigenous sovereignty is also recognizing that Indigenous Peoples have data sovereignty with regards to their records and history. So there needs to be recognition that as we use technology to create new tools, we also need to keep Indigenous views in mind as we work with them.

An Iroquois quote rings the strongest from this conference, shared by Kristin Kozar: “In every deliberation we must consider the impact over the next 7 generations”. So data sovereignty is about moving forward for the next generations. The use of new technologies can help give new footing for the Indigenous community to own their own data as they work with all Canadians to help each other.

In light of new technologies, it is really easy to forget that face to face contact is just as important, if not more so. Working at the Musée Héritage Museum has taught us the value of speaking and listening to individuals in order to build trust and relationships. Without this physical contact, all new technological tools are likely to fail. So if there is only one thing we can take away from this conference, it is that no matter how many great new technological advances take place, we as the custodians of information are still working with people and need to develop and maintain relationships in order to share our community knowledge.