The Mukurtu CMS was originally developed by project leads Kim Christen and Craig Dietrich alongside members of the Warumungu community.
As of 2017, however, Mukurtu is employed by a diverse array of communities around the world, all joined by a shared desire to chronicle and share their cultural heritage in the digital realm.
The Warumungu are indigenous Australians who primarily inhabit the Northern Territories of the country, as well as various towns in the south.
Their long history in their native lands turned to grave struggles with famine and displacement in the 20th century. Gold mining forced the community away from their homelands, which they were unable to reclaim until 1993 after a protracted legal battle.
Many other indigenous communities around the world have adopted Mukurtu over the last ten years. The Plateau People’s Web Portal is a particularly intriguing example of the archive in action. It is primarily organized around ‘Tribal Paths’ – each one dedicated to a different plateau tribe. With cultural sensitivity in mind, each path follows the protocols of the individual tribe. Materials posted on the platform are carefully curated and searchable via categories and media type (images, text, etc).
Scholars have long understood the importance or preserving and sharing global social heritage but the rights and needs of indigenous communities have been swept aside repeatedly through history by the aggressive interests of expanding empires and aggressive corporate interests.
Although inroads have been made to connect communities, the way of life of native peoples has been changed irreparably by the recent settlement of individuals in the ‘new world.’
The relative isolation of these communities leads them to exist on the periphery of mainstream society. Living conditions in American reservations are dramatically worse on average than the national average, with almost 30% below the federal poverty line. Meanwhile, life expectancies remain five years lower than the national average.
The dilemma faced by many tribal leaders is one of increased integration vs. ongoing efforts at cultural preservation. These interests are regarded by many to be incompatible with one another, but technology can help communities to document remarkable artifacts unique to their tribe.
Here are some more inspiring examples of how communities around the world are preserving and exchanging their cultural heritage online:
Utah American Indian Digital Archive
The Utah American Indian Digital Archive is a remarkably detailed resource featuring a large number of articles, books, photos, and maps from each of Utah’s tribes. The team behind the archive are involved in ongoing digitization efforts to bring more and more valuable historical and cultural treasures to a wider digital platform
Researchers from the University of Utah’s American West Center pioneered this resource on behalf of Utah’s Indians and approximately 40 years of research have gone into its creation and collection of artifacts.
The website also employs a powerful advanced search feature making it relatively easy to dig up information on particular specialized areas of interest.
Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages
The Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages is a digital archive dedicated to works of literature in languages of Indigenous Australians of the Northern Territories.
It is noteworthy for it’s intuitive map feature, allowing users to search around the coastal and vast inland expanses of the Australian Northern Territory to find aboriginal language books lovingly digitized.
Uploads are also carefully categorized by author and each indivdual tribal language. Meanwhile, users can browse for particular kinds of literature to identify, for example, narrative fiction works only.
Iroquois Indian Museum
The Iroquois Indian Museum is located around 50km west of Albany in upstate New York. The team behind the museum stage an annual festival which features demonstrations, traditional dancing and market stalls.
The Iroquois confederacy was a powerful force in the northeast region and consisted of multiple tribes including the Mohawk peoples.
The museum is noteworthy for not just focusing on historical artifacts, but for featuring the work of modern Iroquois artists from the 1960s to the present day. In addition, however, the museum is home to a number of significant archaeological exhibits of substantial historical interest.