Communities of interest: issues in establishing a digital resource on Murrinh-patha song at Wadeye (Port Keats), NT

12 April 2015

Linguistics and musicology, along with other fieldwork-based disciplines, have obligations to facilitate access to research results by the communities whose cultural heritage is recorded and analysed, especially when the languages and musics in question are otherwise little documented, have few speakers or performers, and are threatened by the global dominance of English. This paper presents early results of our planning for establishment of a digital resource to preserve and make accessible recordings and other documentation of Murrinh-patha public dance-songs at Wadeye, a remote Indigenous community in Australia’s Northern Territory. With the recent establishment of the Wadeye Knowledge Centre, copies of recordings previously left in the community by researchers have been digitized and made available through computer workstations. Many of these digitized recordings, however, have poor or no documentation and thus are difficult to locate and access. The most urgent task is to work with elderly performers and composers to assemble metadata about the oldest recordings of songs and who composed and performed them. In order to maximise local accessibility and use, both elders and young people will be involved in planning and creation of a bilingual search interface to the collection. Planning must also consider sustainability issues through integration with other local initiatives, appropriate use of open standards and formats, locally sustainable technical platforms, and regular backup and maintenance.