Exploring Power: Aboriginal Artefacts and Records in Australian Libraries and Archives

Abstract

Knowledge is power. By extension, the language utlised to control, disseminate and record knowledge can actively challenge, or sustain, existing power dynamics. In libraries and archives across Australia the power over Aboriginal artefacts and records is complicated by competing interests, various approaches to collection development and management as well as a constantly changing political context. This paper explores the idea of power, in the context of Indigenous collections, through three diverse points of view that serve to highlight some of the ethical and logistical issues that circulate around three key areas: reclaiming power (exploring how Aboriginal communities can connect with historical texts documenting culture, language and events to understand the past and inform the future); returning power (exploring the role of cultural institutions in the repatriation of cultural patrimony and enabling connections with collections); and giving up claims to power and the ‘ownership’ of knowledge (exploring how every citizen can contribute to the restoration of power to facilitate the ‘return’ of knowledge to traditional owners). This paper aims to, through these three brief narratives, highlight some of the historical issues that construct common views around Indigenous collections. In addition, this paper seeks to demonstrate the many opportunities that arise from exploring tensions that may be evident in library and archive collections. It will also explore how staff from diverse backgrounds can be professionally engaged to promote and explore, in strategic and thoughtful ways, Aboriginal materials in archives and libraries.



Author Information
Kirsten Thorpe, State Library of NSW, Australia
Monica Galassi, State Library of NSW, Australia
Rachel Franks, State Library of NSW, Australia

Paper Information
Conference: LibEuro2015
Stream: Indigenous People’s/Ethnic Literatures and Minority Discourses

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