Indigenous Libraries and Cultural Heritage Preservation Jennifer Dibbern Emporia State University LI801 Cohort 10

Indigenous Libraries 2 Abstract: Cultural Heritage Preservation has been around since the before the dawn of written word. Information was first gathered, preserved, and disseminated thorough spoken word in Native American communities. With the arrival of Europeans to the North American Continent can written language and new form of preservation. The tribal libraries of Native Americans began in the 1970 s with the amazing political work of Lotsee Patterson (Comanche). Cultural heritage preservation is equally important to both Indigenous populations, as well as Western society. The age of digitization has affected both cultural groups and provides a new means of cultural heritage preservation in libraries.

Indigenous Libraries 3 Introduction The author of The Wrong Path & The Right Path, Michael Gorman, asks one very important question at the beginning of his article, What is happening to the human record in this age of information ? (Gorman 2007). This question is true and very valid to the Library Information profession today. Preservation of the human record has been done since the before the first major library in Alexandria, since the dawn of written language and possibly even before writing (Gorman 2007). Over time, the way in which objects have been preserved has changed dramatically with most technological changes happening in the past 200 years. Specifically, the biggest change to affect the preservation of cultural heritage is the advent of digitization. Digitization has impacted not only the Western design of cultural heritage preservation, but the indigenous way of ethnographic preservation of the human record as well. Indigenous communities throughout the world have preserved their cultural heritage according to norms associated with their individual belief systems. The advent of libraries, in the Western sense, and technology has impacted the preservation of cultural heritage in indigenous communities in today s society. Cultural Heritage The term Cultural Heritage raises thoughts of ethnographic objects, past cultures and dusty stacks. It is used widely to describe images and objects from the past, however, it is a very broad term. Not only does it encompass the times of yore, it also includes traditions from the entire human record, including works from

Indigenous Libraries 4 present day. Michael Gorman writes in extensive detail about the definition of cultural heritage, including the following description from UNESCO s cultural sector: Having at one time referred exclusively to the monumental remains of cultures, heritage as a concept has gradually come to include new categories such as the intangible, ethnographic, or industrial heritage. UNESCO goes on to explain how there is a shift to not only include the tangible, but to include dramatic arts, dance, music, language and spiritual and philosophical systems upon which creations are based (Gorman 2007). The view on preservation of cultural heritage differs vastly between cultural groups and examples provided in this paper include Western and Native American. The Western Library The Western Library had its beginnings in Mesopotamia in about 1500-3000 BC (Rubin 2004). The first library was more like an archive for cultural records and accounts of the King s dealings with the gods (Chodorow 2006). From Mesopotamia to the Alexandrian Library and the rise of the Roman Empire, the library concept moved from private to public. Over this period of time the preservation of cultural heritage was primarily thought of in more of a political light. Mostly, the preservation of government documents was most important. During the Renaissance with the growth of nationalism, the library became a place of nationality and pride (Rubin 2004). Finally, the invention of the printing press in 1454 was the first contribution of modern technology to preservation. Now, paper objects could be duplicated much faster and with more accuracy. The comfort of having a second copy overshadowed the deterioration of the original.

Indigenous Libraries 5 According to some, the Western perspective on record keeping and preservation of cultural objects, specifically in modern day, is primarily to look back to the deepest roots of our cultural being and of the ideas that govern our political life and reconstruct our ancient selves (Chodorow 2006). This is certainly true to an extent. As Westerners, we grow up with a certain view of the world in which we are raised and in modern times, we develop a more conscious view of ourselves and the impacts we have on the world beyond our own. In modern times, cultural heritage preservation is primarily about saving a bit of ourselves for future generations in the hopes that will learn something from us. It is not only about preserving information about our own culture, and ourselves, preservation has become more global and is about learning from other cultures and conserving their heritage as well. Indigenous Libraries Before the technological aspect of preservation is touched on in the next section, the indigenous aspect of cultural heritage needs to be discussed. Rubin flatly states, Not all societies can have libraries . He declares that there are three conditions under which a society can hold a library and they are centralization, economic growth and political stability (pp 260, 2004). This was found through Rubin s reading of Harris and Johnson, 1984. Up until today, most indigenous cultures were lacking in one, or most of these criteria. The Native Americans for example, did not have libraries until many years past colonization. First of all, there was no need to have a storehouse of past information at ones fingertips, especially if the society was nomadic. It would make no sense to have to pick up and move an

Indigenous Libraries 6 information repository every time they had to pick up and move. Secondly, the storehouse of information was usually as mobile as the society. Elders and other members of the cultural group were the storehouses of cultural information, the mobile libraries. Lastly, many indigenous communities did not have a written language and, therefore, could not actually keep a written cultural record. Native North America Although there was no written word in Native American communities until the formation of the Cherokee Nation and the arrival of the Moravian missionaries in the 1820 s (Josephy 1994), they were very much literate. They have always been gatherers of information, sharers of knowledge, skilled users of symbols, and transmitters of cultural heritage and experience (Biggs 2000). In Native American communities the main way to transfer information was through oral history. Sadly, since colonization, much of that history has been lost. The cultural heritage that has survived the chaos of European colonization is still being passed down generation to generation through oral history. However, with the uninvited influence of the missionaries, there is now a second way of preserving Native American heritage, written word and the development of tribal libraries in America. Lotsee Patterson was known as the Bright Child of Oklahoma. In the 1970 s to the 1980 s Patterson set out on a mission to advance cultural heritage preservation for Native North American communities. She became involved in the National Library Association in the 1970 s and founded the American Indian Library Association (Biggs 2000). Patterson was instrumental in training and bringing better educated librarians to Indian schools. She also found ways to preserve,

Indigenous Libraries 7 transfer, and disseminate cultural traditions by moving cultural preservation from oral tradition to print formats (Biggs 2000). Patterson was the mother of tribal libraries in North America and as Biggs writes, She has arguably done more than any single person to assist America s first people in the preservation, revivification, and dissemination of their cultural riches and traditions (2000). Many First Nations view preservation differently. Below are some excerpts from Preserving What is Valued by Miriam Clavir: The unique feature of a distinctly traditional First Nations approach to the preservation of a specific cultural property is that the very act of preservation typically marks the point of intersection between the performance of a ritual observance or the fulfillment of a religious obligation, and the physical maintenance of the object itself. (Moses: Delaware/Mowhawk) I called for a new approach to preservation that goes beyond the old concept of holding objects in the name of the public, and instead, sees the reconnection of objects to community as an essential step in cultural preservation. (Hill: Mowhawk) Preservation Cultural heritage preservation has become more complicated with the rise of the technology boom over the past 100 years. Archival procedure has even changed dramatically since the 1930 s. Today, preservation practice is concerned with many aspects of proper, archival cultural heritage maintenance. For instance, when working with many ethnographic objects it is important to consider environmental

Indigenous Libraries 8 controls like humidity and temperature, as well as the way in which objects are stored, acid-free storage materials and proper pest controls. The preservation of cultural heritage seems like a daunting task when looking at the entire human record, from cultural beginnings 31,000 years ago to the past 5,000 years of written history. But, that task can be minimized when decisions are made about what a specific institution should preserve. For example, when it comes to the digital realm, institutions take a more selective approach and some take a more comprehensive approach (Phillips 2005). Whichever approach the collecting institution decides will best represent their mission statement, the general practice of cultural heritage preservation has been changed exponentially by the rise of digitization. Digitization and Conclusions Digitization can be seen as the next era in preservation of the human record. It has affected western libraries and indigenous libraries alike. Now, cultural records like spoken word and ritual dance can be preserved in an instant. Also, digitization minimizes hurdles that some must face when trying to access libraries and cultural heritage collections. Entire collections can be made accessible online to the world. For example, UNESCO, in collaboration with 12 institutions, has opened the first World Digital Library in April 2009. Australia has an online Web Archive called PANDORA. It is an amazing task to make one library open to the entire world. The World Digital Library s mission statement reads, The World Digital Library (WDL) makes available on the Internet, free of charge and in multilingual format, significant primary materials from countries and cultures around the world

Indigenous Libraries 9 (UNESCO 2009). Digitization is truly the cultural heritage preservation tool of the modern age and it will impact the Western libraries and tribal libraries alike.

Indigenous Libraries 10

References Biggs, B. (2000). Bright Child of Okalahoma: Lotsee Patterson and the Development of America s Tribal Libraries. American Indian Culture and Research Journal, 24, 4. Calvir, M. (2002). Preserving What is Valued. UBC Press. Toronto. Chodorow, S. (2006). To Represent Us Truly: The Job and Context of Preserving the Cultural Record. Libraries & the Cultural Record, 41, 3. Gorman, M. (2007). The Wrong Path & The Right Path: The Role of Libraries in Access to, and Preservation of Cultural Heritage. Progressive Librarian, 28. Josephy, A.M. (1994). 500 Nations. Gramercy Books. New York. Phillips, ME. (2005). What Should We Preserve? The Question for Heritage Libraries in a Digital World. Library Trends, 54,1. Rubin, R. (2004). Foundations of Library Science. Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc. New York. UNESCO (2009) The World Digital Library. Library of Congress. Accessed April 25, 2009