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Finding New Ways to Connect at the the Sealaska Heritage Institute

This article was written by Emily Pastore, MLIS, SHI Archives and Collections Manager

The Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) is a private nonprofit founded in 1980 to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska. The archives began small, but over the years the collections have grown and are valuable resources to the Alaska Native, academic, and general communities, and include the most Tlingit language recordings in the world. Part of the mission and goals of SHI is to make all of our resources available worldwide. With this in mind, we began the transition to Proficio by Re:Discovery in 2017, a project made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services MN-00-17-0034-17.

Until recently, SHI had used PastPerfect Museum Software and Archon to maintain electronic records of the art and ethnographic object collections and the archival collections. While PastPerfect met our needs for years, with the expansion of our object collections and a need to provide public electronic access, it was time for a change. Archon, which is no longer supported software, also needed an update.

PO072-007Seiki Kayamori Photograph Collection. PO 072, Item 7. William L. Paul Sr. Archives, Sealaska Heritage Institute, Juneau, AK.

Proficio has the capacity to serve as a database for objects, archives, and library materials. This provided a unique opportunity for SHI to showcase both the art and ethnographic collections and the archival collections in a single database. The database has comprehensive searching and browsing capabilities, as well as the ability to attach digital objects and related media. With one search, patrons can find both objects and archival records related to their research from the comfort – and safety – of their home.

With the onset of COVID-19, SHI closed in-person reference appointments and Proficio has become a vital way to connect with our patrons in a virtual environment. Researchers can now explore our art and ethnographic collections, which have never been publically accessible online, as well as updated archival records; there are online exhibits and highlighted objects and collections, which can easily and regularly be updated. There is still work to be done, digital photograph collections are being incorporated and many finding aids need to be expanded, but these are exciting projects we will incorporate into our now-remote internship program this summer.

Sealaska Heritage Institute ArtifactsNorthern Lights Bag by Shgen George. Object ID: 2014.022.002

With Proficio, SHI is also able to incorporate indigenous knowledge directly into the records. Tlingit, Haida, or Tsimshian words for items can be added; and authority records and lexicons can be modified to include the indigenous languages. Additionally, we invited two Tlingit elders to travel to Juneau to record footage of them discussing various objects, including identifying the appropriate Tlingit name for the objects and explaining their use in Tlingit culture. These videos are attached to the object records in Proficio and are highlighted in the current online exhibit, Wooch Yáx̱: Sealaska Heritage Institute’s Art/Ethnographic Collection Inventory and Indigenous Knowledge Project. Also included are audio clips with the pronunciation of the object name in Tlingit.

We invite you to check out the new database and explore the different collections; we would also appreciate if you completed this short, 5-minute survey about your experience. Enjoy, and contact us with any questions at!



The Making of a Podcast in the International Year of Indigenous Languages

This article was written by Joy M. Banks, Program Officer, Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR)

The seed of an idea was planted in October of 2018 when I attended a session at the annual Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, & Museums (ATALM) meeting that focused on the United Nation’s (UN) declaration of 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages. During the session, ideas were shared by the speaker and attendees on ways to celebrate and bring attention to the diversity and endangerment of the world’s Indigenous languages. Was there some way Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) could broadcast important preservation work taking place in cultural organizations?

Over the course of some months, the idea of the podcast began to form. Ultimately, this was a platform CLIR intended to use to discuss many important topics. In theme-based seasons, Material Memory explores the effects of our changing world—from digital technologies to the climate crisis—on our ability to access the record of our shared humanity, and the critical role that libraries, archives, museums, and other public institutions play in keeping cultural memory alive. To introduce the audience, CLIR produced Episode Zero, “Keeping Cultural Memory Alive: What is at Stake?,” featuring an interview with CLIR’s President Charles Henry and exploring how the podcast topics fit in CLIR’s mission.

Recognizing the extreme precarity of audio and/or visual recordings of Indigenous languages, our first season was framed around the UN’s declaration. We combed through the funded projects of our Recordings at Risk and Digitizing Hidden Special Collections and Archives regranting programs for potential interviewees. Supported by a broad definition of Indigenous languages, we easily found six worthy projects to feature, each with their own unique challenges.

Our first set of episodes was released in December of 2019. Episode 1, “The Ethics of Access,” features an overview of the challenges of digitizing and trying to make available Indigenous language materials, navigating complex cultural mores. In Episode 2, “Connected to the Legacy,” we hear from staff at the Amistad Research Center who worked to preserve the field recordings of Lorenzo Dow Turner, African-American academic and linguists. Turner made important connections between the languages of West Africa and those spoken by African Americans living in the low countries and sea islands of South Carolina and Georgia. Episode 3, “The Duty of Memory,” features staff from Duke University who received funding to save the most damaged recordings from Radio Haiti, a popular and persecuted radio station that captured the news and lives of the Haitian-Creole people.

Season 1 trailer:

Episodes 4-6 are in final production now and will focus on projects to preserve the Iñupiat language in Utqiaġvik on the North Slope of Alaska, the popular Indians for Indians Radio Hour broadcast from Oklahoma University, and the diversity of A/V materials that capture Native voices and song at the Autry Museum in Southern California.

Our sincere hope is that sharing the work of these projects will inspire others to open their closets, reach out to their communities, and find at-risk audio and/or visual materials capturing Indigenous language materials. Each passing day puts these materials at more risk, not just from material obsolesce and decay but also from the loss of those individuals with the knowledge to offer translation, transcription, and cultural description for future generations. Visit the Material Memory website for show notes, links to project outputs and social media, transcriptions, and more. And be sure to subscribe to the podcast on your favorite platform so you don’t miss a single episode.


ATALM 2019

NAAS members were very active at the recent Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums (ATALM) Conference, which was held at the beautiful Pechanga Casino and Resort in Temecula, California, on October 8–10. Attendees had the opportunity to participate in 14 preconference workshops, 27 hands-on collections care labs, four field trips to California cultural sites of significance to Native peoples, and more than 200 concurrent sessions focused on the theme “Navigating Cultural Survival in the 21st Century.” Attendees also had the chance to hear United States Poet Laureate Joy Harjo (Muscogee/Creek) deliver the keynote address, connect with vendors in the Exhibits Hall, support Native artists and entrepreneurs in the Native Art Market, and much more.

NAAS Steering Committee members led a conference session on Thursday, October 10. The session, titled “Protocols 101: An Interactive Discussion with the Native American Archives Section,” sought input from conference attendees about the section’s plans and projects for the upcoming year. Steering Committee members asked participants to share their thoughts about these projects and about ways to create and sustain successful collaborations between Native and non-Native archivists and communities. About 35 participants, including past NAAS Chairs and Steering Committee members, attended the session, and many offered ideas about ways that NAAS can bolster outreach efforts this year.

NAAS also sponsored a booth in the Exhibit Hall. NAAS members staffed the booth between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. on all three days of the conference, distributing fliers about NAAS activities to conference attendees and encouraging people to get involved in section activities. Thanks to SAA’s generous support, NAAS was also able to give away some “swag” (calendars of SAA publications, bookmarks, past issues of Archival Outlook and the American Archivist) and raffle off two SAA publications and free access to the recordings of SAA’s Annual Conference in August. Dozens of attendees stopped by the booth over the course of the conference, many of whom had never heard of SAA or of NAAS. NAAS members had a great time advocating for the section and connecting with potential new members.