IKMS Offers Home for Indigenous Knowledge

May 15th, 2005 | By | Category: 16-4: International Indigenous Education, Tribal College News
By Tom Davis

YOUR ARTIFACT HERE. A screen shot from the IKMS software shows how objects, images, or audio recordings can be shared or not, depending upon the wishes of the community. The file includes “annotation,” “rights,” and “tribal care” sub-menus at the top.

Little Priest Tribal College (LPTC, Winnebago, NE) is involved in developing one of the more complex partnerships with an international focus. The effort includes the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), the Distributed Systems Technology Center (DSTC) affiliated with the University of Queensland in Australia, several Maori-controlled institutions of higher learning in New Zealand, and one Australian Aborigine community.

The college’s information technology (IT) director, Dar Bales, recently returned from Australia after being trained to install and use the Indigenous Knowledge Management System (IKMS). Little Priest is considered a pilot for other tribal colleges and universities that want to be involved.

The IKMS project stems from discussions between Dr. Jane Hunter, senior computer scientist at the DSTC in Australia, and Jane Sledge, NMAI’s information and technology resources manager. Hunter and Sledge discussed how multimedia technologies might allow indigenous groups to record and preserve significant aspects of their cultures, including languages, ceremonies, dances, songs, stories, symbols, design, artwork, tools, costumes, historical photographs, film, videos, and audio tapes.

The project will develop an electronic mechanism to control access. This will enable traditional owners to protect sacred or secret knowledge and to receive proper compensation for the intellectual property that they are willing to share.

The IKMS software was designed for use by any community willing to work with NMAI and DSTC to develop the necessary expertise. Jane Hunter is developing software that will be freely available to indigenous communities and cultural institutions for non-profit, community-focused, or educational programs.

On the Winnebago Reservation, Little Priest Tribal College and the tribe can use the IKMS in conjunction with the log cabin museum, creating three-dimensional images of tribal artifacts. NMAI will work with the Winnebago community to bridge the gap between the people and their Winnebago artifacts held hundreds of miles away in national collections by providing electronic renditions to the local museum.

The tribal college is also working with NMAI to develop a virtual museum that involves young community students in the curation and annotation process. This work will be available to the public in NMAI’s new museum on the Washington, DC, mall.

As part of the project, Little Priest is planning to work with the World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium to share information about its community over the internet with participating Maori and Australian communities.

For more information, contact Tom Davis at tom@etheldavisgallery.com or Marty DeMontano at demontanom@ic.si.edu.

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