Archiving materials well – whether storing them appropriately in a physical location or storing them in electronic formats – is extremely important for the preservation of language and culture. Communities and their consultants should carefully consider issues related to the long term and safe deposit and care of materials, including:
- physical storage of existing materials, which will maximise the life of the materials and safeguard the often irreplaceable linguistic and cultural content
- original versions of audiovisual materials should never be used, they should be copied once and then stored away safely
- copies of original unpublished materials should be stored off-site to avoid the risk of losing the material completely in the event of local natural disasters, such as floods
- high-quality archival digital materials, which will be useful to future generations, are necessarily large files which require a lot of storage space
- materials in out-dated formats need to be converted so that the content of the materials will always be available to people who need to work with them
- using new technologies to make high quality language resources
- indexing, cataloguing, archiving of materials.
On a national level, AIATSIS stores a vast amount of information on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages and cultures. All of the material held at AIATSIS is stored according to international best practice standards, in climate controlled vaults. Communities and individuals can have confidence that their materials will be physically and intellectually secure when they are stored at AIATSIS. AIATSIS has curatorial responsibility for materials it holds which are lodged with it under strict access conditions. When communities and individuals lodge materials with AIATSIS, they can specify how materials should be handled, who should be contacted and who can have access and these instructions are strictly adhered to.
Communities spend considerable time and resources investigating AIATSIS and numerous other public and private collections, which hold documentation and recordings of their languages. Communities have been retrieving many materials from various collections and storing copies of these materials on a local or regional level. Towards this end, AIATSIS has produced a guide to storing, handling and managing audiovisual materials called Keeping Your History Alive, which is available free of charge to Indigenous individuals and organisations.8
8 For a copy of this booklet and for advice about good archiving practices, including technical advice on archiving materials in electronic formats, contact the Audiovisual Access Unit at AIATSIS. See list of organisations at the end of this guide.