Honiana Love, Tumu Whakarae – Chief Executive of Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision, the audiovisual archive of Aotearoa / New Zealand, sets out the challenge for the sector preparing for a digital future – getting our pataka (storehouses) in order.
Moea Te Poi, Moea Te Taiaha (Be ready for any challenge).
This kiwaha (saying) can be interpreted to mean ‘be ready for any challenge’. This, for me, frames the situation the heritage sector currently faces when considering our digital future.
While the users of our collections are increasingly requesting better access to collections through multiple digital channels, and we as the holders of heritage collections are seeing the possibilities of technological developments in the digital heritage landscape, there is one key issue facing our sector here and now.
This challenge is the important practical kaupapa (purpose) of ‘getting our pataka (storehouse) in order’, the foundational readiness phase for any digital future.
When compared to the shiny promise of what future technology can deliver, this could seem like the boring bit, the slow bit, the complex bit, and even the shameful bit.
Why aren’t our amazing collections ready right now for a digital future?
This has been the problem we, as heritage institutions, have grappled with in many forms over many years – but changing expectations of our users (and non-users) driven by the latest technology advances requires more from us now than just answering the question. It requires us to take action, to make the question as obsolete as much of the analogue technology we use to make this digital future happen!
As the audiovisual archive of Aotearoa we are finding strength in engaging with the messy and hard questions and decisions around getting our taonga (culturally and socially valuable objects) ready: putting things right, addressing collection management, backlogs, standards, rights, building stronger relationships and creating better opportunities for collaboration across our sector.
This mahi (work) requires the non-digital qualities of honesty, openness, vulnerability, and a large helping of what we call ‘relative humility’ (an archive joke – we also take care of temperature and relative humidity!).
We’re asking questions, sharing knowledge, seeking linkages, accepting we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us.
Preparing our collections and people for a digital future are now the key focus of our work. We don’t own the collections we care for, so we cannot simply focus on the science, the technical side of this mahi. It must be balanced with relationship management which is equally critical for us. As kaipupuri (holders of collections) we must navigate the complex challenges of upholding kaitiakitanga (guardianship), managing rights and expectations, data sovereignty and technical degralescence1 . All at the same time!
So we have gone back to basics: keeping the taonga we hold and the outcomes for New Zealanders at the forefront of our planning.
In all of this we keep Te Tiriti o Waitangi and our obligation to manage the taonga and our work in line with the expectations of kaitiaki in the forefront of our minds. Likewise balancing access now with future access is a constant challenge.
We understand that the benefits of a successful digital project include the quality and depth of future digital opportunities generated by a holistic, ethical, kaupapa-based approach to relationship, risk and collection management; alongside thorough preparation work.
We don’t have a choice to operate in any other way – shortcuts taken now only short-change the audiences and archivists of the future. We know that it is here we add unique value, in perpetuity.
We know the imperative of needing to get this right and aren't afraid to acknowledge the enormity of the task, because it is only by doing so, that we lay the digital foundations and generate organisational courage to move boldly and with conviction in order to confront and find solutions to these challenges.
So, on a practical level, what is Ngā Taonga doing? We are:
- Working across our sector to develop shared future vision and ways of working together that will address shared challenges and respond to the needs of staff, users, heritage sector partners, iwi, Māori and future generations.
- Collaborating on how we care for collections across the sector – spiritual, physical, intellectual and digital. We continue to look for opportunities to develop joined up approaches, shared resources, repositories, and knowledge.
- Ensuring we are meeting our commitments to te Tiriti o Waitangi, reflecting and appropriately applying a mātauranga Māori lens across the stewardship, care, and supply of taonga Māori.
- Establishing high-level principles to inform future vision, strategic planning; and standards for preservation and collection management; and review pathways towards alignment for cross-agency projects.
- Strengthening our ability to grow by working together as a sector to ensure our kaimahi (staff) are highly qualified, professional, trusted ambassadors for the organisations and that our expertise is highly sought after.
Through joint programmes and projects we can achieve capability uplift in both people and technology. We can work together to move towards digital capability to ingest and deliver content. Sector-wide collaboration is key here for us to be successful and accountable – we’re all in this together.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
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