This paper discusses the potential role of the Council for the Preservation of Anthropological Records (CoPAR) in the context of contemporary developments in anthropological research and archival practice. Despite many efforts, there are no discipline-wide, agreed-upon best practices for making or keeping anthropological records, and no central space where such conversations are taking place. Founded in the 1990s, CoPAR aims to convey the value of anthropological records, to encourage anthropology practitioners and institutions to preserve the field's records, to identify and locate primary anthropological materials, and to promote the use of records in the discipline. While CoPAR led efforts to preserve records of anthropologists in the 1990s, it became inactive by the early 2000s. Since then, the shift to digital field records and the increased digital access of archival records has exposed new concerns for the field's archival records. This article explores the outcomes of a 2015 meeting on this topic and identifies new gaps and challenges for anthropological records, joining this work with current archival perspectives. The article makes a case for a revitalized CoPAR that will encourage life-cycle data thinking and more community-driven approaches to archival stewardship.

The anthropological record, which includes observational data made by fieldworkers and cultural data from communities, is increasingly created and stored in digital forms. Although earlier efforts to preserve anthropological records have contributed to practices that encouraged the deposit of materials in archives, procedures to ensure the legacy of a digital record for anthropology are still developing. Alongside the initial exploration of and growing reliance on digital technologies over the past two decades, additional new ideas and practices have emerged; these call for a reappraisal of the anthropological record, from the identification of record materials and creators at the source community level, to a better understanding of life-cycle thinking that can encourage more responsible practice in fieldwork and archival transfer. These developments present significant complications to the appraisal and preservation of anthropological records.

This article examines the role of Council for the Preservation of Anthropological Records (CoPAR) in the context of recent developments in anthropology and archives. CoPAR was founded in the 1990s to convey the value of anthropological records, encourage anthropology practitioners and institutions to preserve the field's records, identify and locate primary anthropological materials, and promote the use of records in the discipline. Anthropologist Nancy Parezo succinctly describes the purpose and the actors behind the creation of CoPAR: “[I]n cooperation with the archival and information science communities, to encourage anthropological practitioners and anthropological organizations to work to preserve unpublished anthropological field records.”1 As a “disciplinary catalyst,” CoPAR sought to: 1) “identify and locate primary anthropological data, texts on which conclusions and interpretations are based, and supporting materials”; 2) “encourage preservation”; and 3) “foster the use of documentary records with anthropological value.”2 To this end, CoPAR produced a directory of ethnographic holdings across distributed repositories. Today, the preservation and stewardship of anthropological records face new challenges as 1) their formats and scopes shift and expand; 2) collection managers face challenges of digitizing, preserving, and providing access to heterogeneous materials; 3) user expectations for immediate digital access grow; and 4) users and uses for such collections grow more diverse.

CoPAR led efforts to preserve records of anthropologists in the 1990s, but it was inactive by the early 2000s. Since then, major changes in digital technologies and anthropological research practice have exposed new concerns in the preservation of and access to the field's records. This article evaluates CoPAR's role in the context of recent developments in anthropological research and reimagines its contributions in the contemporary archival preservation landscape. What we present here is based on discussions during a 2015 workshop sponsored by the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. This article identifies gaps in anthropological and archival scholarly perspectives on anthropological archives and makes a case for a revitalized CoPAR that encourages life-cycle data thinking and more community-driven approaches to archival stewardship.

Since CoPAR's founding, the field of anthropology has changed dramatically, as have the records anthropologists produce, circulate, and consult. Moving from the analog to the digital has presented the discipline with new challenges. For instance, we have moved from producing mainly analog records in paper, audiotape, or film, to producing born-digital data in word processors, digital photography, digitally recorded and transcribed audio and video, GIS datapoints, and databases for managing fieldnotes, or coding and analyzing transcripts. The nature and context of the “fieldnote” is transforming and continues to evolve because of the variety of formats and technologies involved in the documentation, creation, and dissemination of anthropological knowledge. The complex contexts of creation, the specialized and often individualized systems of analysis, and the often sensitive or private nature of these materials present a particular array of challenges for digital preservation and reuse of fieldnotes, from the preservation of individual sets of records, to software, and obsolete media.

In 1995, anthropologist Robert Kemper discussed the “appropriate use of computers for preserving the anthropological record,” including recommendations for the preservation of early digital records. Kemper noted that “at a minimum, we should print copies of important computer files on acid-free paper and store these documents in archival-quality folders and storage boxes.”3 This “print and file” approach has not become common practice, nor is it optimal any longer given advances in digital curation and preservation. The digital reconstruction of field data has resulted in various time-consuming and expensive projects as researchers and archivists attempt to reconstitute data from obsolete sources.4 However, Kemper also asked questions that have still not been answered coherently for the anthropological field:

What kinds of data should be preserved and then made available to scholars and to the public? How long should certain kinds of data be withheld from scrutiny? How do we provide adequate protection to informants? And who decides the answers to these questions—anthropologists, funding agencies, government bureaucrats, or representatives of the people studied?5

For both analog and digital records, active and ethical preservation is key to ensuring future access. Though Kemper predicted that computer use might make it easier to protect records, this has not become the reality. Today, the wide assumption that these records are easier or cheaper to preserve has proven radically untrue.6 The prevalence of cloud applications has posed new challenges to maintaining the security of such records, and shifts in digital formats make their preservation and future translation difficult, but not necessarily impossible.7 As with analog records, the production and maintenance of digital anthropological records requires careful thought, planning, and disciplinary consensus. In this digital informationscape,8 anthropological repositories and professionals face the challenge of providing access to these records while also maintaining their cultural particularities, both in their ethical use and management.

Recent years have seen prominent conversations in academia and among funders on the topic of ensuring the proper curation, management, preservation, and reuse of research data. However, little attention has been paid to anthropological records as research data. Although discussions of “data” have often been considered the domain of the sciences, growing awareness of data curation has sparked similar conversations in the humanities and across social science disciplines, including the observation that preservation requires “purposeful work” to create organized, useful, and archivable information.9 Despite many recent efforts, to date there are no discipline-wide, agreed-upon best practices for making or keeping these records. There is also no central space where these conversations are taking place. Cultural and linguistic anthropology, in particular, lack a central hub for either their records or the professional consideration of these issues, including updated networks of holding institutions, contacts, and professional discussion forums for those with this expertise or facing these challenges, and protocols or best practices in the discipline.

Part of the discipline's challenge is the diversity of anthropology itself. Anthropological records are broadly defined as records being produced by the discipline's diverse subspecialties, often in North America called the “four fields”—biological, archaeological, linguistic, and cultural anthropology. While often overlapping in approaches and interests, each focuses on a different set of research motivations and generally uses different research methodologies and techniques. Linguistic and cultural anthropology in particular typically produce qualitative data recorded in multiform “fieldnotes” that reflect an anthropologist's observations. Archaeologists and biological anthropologists, by contrast, often produce quantitative data sets. Anthropological data can also now be expanded to include other records relating to Native American and Indigenous, or “source communities.”10 Such collections include records made by nonanthropologists and, increasingly, by community scholars in and out of the academy. Likewise, the users of these records are increasingly nonanthropologists in the academy and nonacademics overall. Native American and Indigenous communities use anthropological records in a wide range of cultural revitalization initiatives, from artists' projects and language immersion programs to Indigenous mapping projects and land claims. Anthropological records thus require special attention given their disciplinary diversity, the history of their collection and purpose, and the broader cultural protocols required to manage their preservation and use.

Conferences and symposia over the last ten years have become the venue for formative discussions about the salience of anthropological records and data in the digital age across the field. The early conversations include a CoPAR-sponsored panel at the American Anthropological Association (AAA) meeting in 2005 which discussed the move to the “paperless” archive.11 Two additional formative workshops took place in 2009, the first at the Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Anthropology Centre on “archiving culture in the digital age” and the second on building “an Integrated Plan for Digital Preservation and Access to Primary Anthropological Data.”12 In 2011, a National Science Foundation (NSF)–sponsored AAA workshop took place on the creation of a “registry” of anthropological data, confirming that better ways are needed “to help researchers and other interested groups discover diverse, widely-distributed, heterogeneous data in a digital world” and “to improve the access, sharing, and building upon existing data knowledge while respecting ethical mandates to protect human subjects.”13 This workshop helped to establish a prototype for a wider anthropological database using a Wiki, drawing largely on CoPAR's previous work and database.14

Two additional projects dealt with related issues, primarily in archaeology. One, which began in 2001, is the Digital Archive Network for Anthropology and World Heritage (DANA).15 DANA started to pull together four-field anthropological records through a distributed network but only completed records for archaeological sources. The “Biological anthropology,” “Ethnography,” and “Linguistics” portions of this database remain incomplete.16 The second is a series of workshops on the Digital Archaeological Record (tDAR) held in 2011 by Digital Antiquity to discuss archaeological information management and preservation.17 Together, these two projects present potential prototypes—albeit in archaeology—for a more coherent disciplinary space.

Most recently, discussions at an American Anthropological Association panel in December of 2014 entitled “The lifecycle of ethnographic information—Challenges in the preservation and accessibility of qualitative data” confirmed the growing need for a more coherent space to collate physical and digital repositories (like CoPAR's previous listings and the Registry Wiki), networks of practitioners and repository managers, and best practices for our field.18 This is particularly important given that all of these previous discussions noted the barriers to archiving and access that are specific to anthropology, especially in managing cultural sensitivity, non-Western models of ownership, and confidentiality in a field that often does not anonymize its participants.

These initiatives, however, remain unconnected, and no coherent discussion of these issues in anthropology or archival science is underway. Tackling these issues at a fieldwide level requires new considerations, including what is at stake for the cultural contexts of preservation and the expansion of Indigenous models of copyright or database management, as well the core ethical issues in the discipline. The workshop we planned thus convened a unique combination of experts—those working internationally on the tangible records of the discipline and former CoPAR participants, together with the new generation of experts in digital ethnography and preservation, and experts in digital curation. Only through collaborations among these experts can we ensure the future ethical accessibility of archival work. Such collaborations will also ensure that our disciplinary practices—to manage information, consider ethical Indigenous protocols, protect human subjects, fund future projects, and produce the next generation of field records—remain relevant in the digital era. Positioning the future direction of CoPAR will impact the producers and keepers of records, whether trained in anthropology, archives, or other perspectives.

Scholars of archives, anthropology, and Native American and Indigenous studies have notably explored the relationship between records, archives, data, and anthropology. Thinkers in the disciplines of anthropology and archival science in particular acknowledge the similarities of their historical roots and driving missions. As Elizabeth Kaplan notes, “both are concerned with representations—of people, of cultures, of events, and ultimately of history and of memory. Both exercise power in the creation and use of records, of observations, of information.”19 However, it is important to note that despite their shared concerns, anthropology and archival literatures are currently siloed within their disciplines.

Uses of Archives in Anthropology

Those interested in tracing the relationship of archives and anthropology can look to spaces where archival issues are considered in anthropological literature. Anthropologists have notably drawn on archival content to consider the history of anthropology as a discipline, including visual anthropology, digital ethnography, and digital repatriation. Depending on the program, graduate students in anthropology are exposed to archival research in their courses on the history of, and history of theory in, anthropology. Yet, very few graduate programs focus on archival research as a methodological approach, despite the fact that some central methods textbooks, such as anthropologist Russell Bernard's Handbook of Methods in Cultural Anthropology, do include a section on archival research.20

As in archival studies, core concepts, such as representation and objectivity, have been critiqued as anthropologists have critically examined the history of documentation and archival practices within the discipline. However, as information scholar Hannah Turner noted in a recent journal issue on museum cataloging, even the museum anthropology field has tended to focus on “the outward-facing practices of museum work,” as anthropologists seldom question and examine the information structures they build in the process of interpreting and managing collections, such as “the catalogue and its historical precursors.”21

The most prominent use of archives in anthropology is in tracing the history and evolution of the discipline. Anthropologists have been doing so for more than fifty years, an effort that has relied on archival records as critical sources of information. On the whole, anthropologists tend not to reference the archival literature in this work despite its relevance. Their use of archival sources is often limited to extracting and interpreting their contents as source evidence. Their work does not often investigate the institutions and professionals that steward them, nor the systems, standards, and rules that govern their preservation and access.

The history of anthropology as a focus of serious study might be traced to anthropologist A. Irving Hallowell's 1962 “Conference on the History of Anthropology.”22 George Stocking, Hallowell's most prolific student of the topic, generated a foundational, and now canonical, body of work in the area. Stocking's work on the history of the discipline in collected works such as Race, Culture, and Evolution: Essays in the History of American Anthropology; The Shaping of American Anthropology, 1883–1911: A Franz Boas Reader; Observers Observed: Essays on Ethnographic Fieldwork; Victorian Anthropology; The Ethnographer's Magic and Other Essays in the History of Anthropology; and After Tylor: British Social Anthropology, 1888–1951 span historical periods and topical interests.23 Stocking's work and the contributors to these collections largely drew on archival content. As Stocking notes in his introduction to Observers Observed, by the 1980s, the history of anthropology had moved from “what was once for the most part the episodic effort of reminiscent elder anthropologists or roving intellectual historians” to “something approximating a recognized research specialization” with some 5,000 titles making up its canon. 24

This movement was conceived in part as a reaction to a disciplinary crisis in the early “post”-colonial era; anthropology could no longer study its “others,” but rather had to reflexively examine its own power, practices, and histories. The history of anthropology offered a way for anthropologists “to understand their present predicament and to find and/or legitimate approaches that might lead them out of it.”25 Archival materials thus enabled a wider historical and reflective movement intrinsically tied to other moves toward “writing culture” and “anthropology as cultural critique.”26

Regional histories of the discipline also include works such as anthropologist Don Fowler's writing on anthropology and romanticism in the Southwest or Ira Jacknis's on anthropologists, Kwakwaka'wakw peoples, and objects on the Northwest Coast.27 Other anthropologists have compiled comparative accounts of the discipline using archival sources. In their comparative work on the history of anthropology, for instance, anthropologists Fredrik Barth, Robert Parkin, Andre Gingrich, and Sydel Silverman also explore differences among German, British, French, and American traditions.28 Manuela Fischer et al. have also worked on the history of German anthropology.29

Histories of museums and collecting draw more specifically on archival materials to showcase the history not only of anthropology, but also of collecting, research, and major institutions in the discipline's history. Historian of anthropology Curtis Hinsley's work on the history of the Smithsonian and American anthropology draws heavily on archival materials,30 as do a number of essays in Stocking's Objects and Others. Anthropologists Nancy J. Parezo and Don Fowler's work on the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, Michael O'Hanlon's ethnography of collecting, and Susan Pearce's seminal works on collecting practices in wider British and other colonial institutional contexts are based heavily in archival research.31 More recently, research articles by museum anthropologists Catherine Nichols, Candace Greene, and others have added archivally driven scholarship to the museum anthropology field.32 Similarly, Joshua Bell, Erin Hasinoff, and others have made important contributions to this body of work through volumes on anthropological expeditions and their encounters.33

Works in the field of visual anthropology likewise rely on archives, primarily in photographic and film collections. These include books by Elizabeth Edwards on the history of anthropology and photographic practices,34 which explore agency and the performative qualities of photographic archives. As a special issue of History and Anthropology on anthropology, photography, and archives pointed out, scholars such as anthropologist Deborah Poole increasingly consider the distribution and movement of photographs in archives.35 Considerations of archives in anthropology are enmeshed in a growing field of digital anthropology and collections, of which literature on museums in the digital age, digital returns and digitization, and theoretical concerns over the digital turn are all a part.36

Literature on virtual ethnography and the new kinds of fieldwork production taking place in anthropology has opened up further discussions about archives. Tom Boellstorff was one of the first anthropologists to conduct ethnography as an avatar; since then, digital fieldwork has become commonplace among anthropologists.37 Facebook, for instance, has become one of the more popular platforms that anthropologists use to maintain contact with their collaborators and to conduct other kinds of exchanges. As Boelstorff puts it, for anthropology, the digital is not merely an “object of study” but a “methodological approach, founded in participant observation, for investigating the virtual and its relationship to the actual.”38 Ethnographies, such as anthropologist Daniel Miller's on Facebook, further stretch the notion of a fieldsite.39 Boelstorff, Bonnie Nardi, and Celia Pearce lay out methodologies for such approaches, which raise fieldwide questions about the nature of “fieldnotes” and anthropological records for the future of the discipline. Roger Sanjek and Susan Tratner's volume on fieldnotes has canonized digital documents as a (or perhaps increasingly the) form of fieldwork production.40 These contributions also demonstrate a growing concern as the shift to digital documentation practices raises anxiety in the discipline over the future preservation and accessibility of anthropological data. While some subfields and anthropological professionals remain mired in discussions about their emails, others are making strides forward in line with wider developments in digital data curation. Archaeologists in particular are instituting methods and disciplinary repositories to solve some of these issues.

A number of scholars are working to close the gap between anthropology and archives literatures in this context. Information scholar Lisa Given and art historian Lianne McTavish, for instance, argue that the digital era signals a “reconvergence” of libraries, archives, and museums.41 At the macro level, each field “care[s] for cultural heritage.”42 In an increasingly fluid world, they argue, the three fields must form a “common baseline of expert knowledge to gather, manage, and make accessible the vast array of materials in the coming centuries.”43

By contrast, a recent synthesis by anthropologist David Zeitlyn has shown the disconnect between anthropology and archival literatures.44 Looking at key concepts such as hegemony, subversion, liminality, and key modes of imagining archives, Zeitlyn notes that the tension between the two fields has merely morphed through digital media. For instance, tensions between archival and anthropological practice exist about whether or how to anonymize records, or how to obtain and record proper consent. As he writes, “the digital does not change profoundly the conceptual issues for anthropologists about their relationships to archives. As we have seen, these connect to wider theoretical issues about how representations are made and of what they consist.”45

Yet, some melding of these fields has also occurred through ethnographies of archival institutions. Nicholas Dirks argues for such archival “biographies,” a call that has since been taken up in various examples.46 The recent special issue of Museum Anthropology mentioned previously also fuses archival and anthropological approaches by collecting papers on critical cataloging. In the introduction to the issue, Hannah Turner describes the goal to explore not the histories of objects or institutions, but the histories of systems of classification, cataloging practice, and underlying epistemologies that shape documentation practices in anthropological contexts.47 The case studies offered there by Marsh, Nichols, Greene, Turner, and Krmpotich are an important first move in the museum anthropology field to transcend disciplinary boundaries.

Shifting Archival Ideas and Ethnographic Records

More recent developments in archival scholarship have refocused the attention on the role of archives in society. It is necessary to note the shifts in archival thinking, especially in the context of anthropological records that document Native American and Indigenous communities. Archivists have realized the critical role of records for communities beyond their traditional academic uses. With the increasing availability of digitized materials, archivists must balance their obligations to provide access to records with respecting the cultural protocols and privacy of the communities documented in those records.

Terry Cook notes the shift of archival paradigms from a focus on keeping and providing evidence for juridical, institutional, or academic use to that of examining the role of archives in shaping memory, identity, and community. According to Cook:

In this new digital, political, and pluralistic universe, professional archivists need to transform themselves from elite experts behind institutional walls to becoming mentors, facilitators, coaches, who work in the community to encourage archiving as a participatory process shared with many in society, rather than necessarily acquiring all the archival products in our established archives. We archivists need to listen as well as speak, becoming ourselves apprentices to learn new ways (and, sometimes, very old ways) that communities have for dealing with creating and authenticating evidence, storytelling[,] memory-making, documenting relationships that are often very different from our own.48

Archivists who frame their work in terms of “critical archival studies” have critiqued the use of archives, archival metaphors, and the so-called archival turn in the humanities and related disciplines, including anthropology.49 From this perspective, the academic use of archival sources is extractive: drawing on the work of the professional archival community without acknowledging its expertise either in literature or in professional practice. As a recent exchange in The Atlantic has poignantly suggested, archival “discoveries” are only made possible by the work of archivists and archival institutions that made those documents discoverable.50

Likewise, existing “how to” literature intended to help anthropologists navigate archival repositories seems to be produced without the consultation of archivists. A recent issue of Advances in Archaeological Practice focuses on archaeology and archives, including a concluding practical guide to archival research for archaeologists. While the text provides important insights, it lacks citation of archival literature that might illuminate some of the issues archaeologists encounter when accessing archives.51

Archival scholars and practitioners have been working to hone practices and standards around anthropological and Indigenous collections. The Society of American Archivists (SAA) formed a Native American Archives Roundtable (now a Section) in 2005. The group initiated a task force to consider a series of Protocols for Native American Archival Materials in 2008.52 Some archival repositories have led the charge to adopt new methods for working ethically with Native American and Indigenous collections.53 Organizations such as the American Philosophical Society are opening up more Native fellowship and digital knowledge sharing programs, and adopting their own similar protocols.54 As part of the recent SAA adoption of the protocols, a number of institutions are publishing case studies on their incorporation into their institutional and archival practices since their inception.55 It took more than a decade, however, for the SAA to formally endorse these protocols, which suggests a certain reluctance to bring principles for ethical community relationships between institutions and Native groups into mainstream professional practice.56

A wider movement in the archival field aims to consider community archives and to increase attention toward the growth of equity and social justice through archival work. Work by Wendy Duff, David Wallace, and others considers “how an archival approach to social justice and a social justice approach to archives can inform and animate archival praxis and research.”57 This work places a similar emphasis on applied work with marginalized communities and attention to the ways archives can address societal power imbalances and histories of inequality.

Digital Curation

Another important strand in archival science is an emerging emphasis on digital curation, which has emerged increasingly in the last twenty years as a combination of digital preservation and data curation perspectives. Because a large portion of ethnographic records are research data, this is particularly relevant in light of anthropological records that are products of research fieldwork. In fact, the work of archiving cultural anthropology, which predominantly produces fieldnotes, an observational and analytical genre of records, may best be described as data curation.

Information studies, drawing on domain knowledge and theories from archiving to digital preservation to data curation to data reuse, therefore, provides useful insight into reckoning with the digital alongside analog records within anthropological records. As Punzalan's research on archival images of the Philippines has shown, the digital era increasingly facilitates the “virtual reunification” of such dispersed images, places, and peoples.58 Thus, one must consider distributed anthropological records holistically. Life-cycle thinking for anthropological records can, and ought to be, an organizational effort.59

While attention has thus been given to Native American collections overall, much of this work is specific to Native North America and lacks any discussion of the major genre of anthropological collecting: fieldnotes. Fieldnotes remain the basic “makings of anthropology.”60 While other scientists, such as paleontologists and ecologists, keep fieldnotes, anthropological fieldnotes are a unique genre of research records. While paleontologists might worry about the security of site localities, ethnographic fieldnotes are often littered with personal information, unfinished and undigested thoughts, gossip, and descriptions of sacred or secret events. As Jean Jackson writes:

Some speak of fieldnotes as representing the process of the transformation of observed interaction to written, public communication: “raw” data, ideas that are marinating, and fairly done-to-a-turn diagrams and genealogical charts to be used in appendixes to a thesis or book. Some see their notes as scientific and rigorous because they are a record, one that helps prevent bias and provides data other researchers can use for other ends. Others contrast fieldnotes with data, speaking of fieldnotes as a record of one's reactions, a cryptic list of items to concentrate on, a preliminary stab at analysis, and so forth. 61

Fieldnotes vary among anthropologists. They can encompass a wide range of materials, including audio recordings, photographs, and other ephemera collected to holistically document a cultural sphere. Now, fieldnotes are largely digital, organized in file systems and analyzed in databases. Whatever their format, fieldnotes represent observations of and in certain times and places. As primary source documents for subsequent study and analysis, fieldnote records are irreproducible and unique.62

For many, if not most, anthropologists, fieldnotes are complex records that represent relationships over time. Some are not only protective of, but embarrassed by, their fieldnotes. Fieldnote records are “part of a world of private memories and experiences, failures and successes, insecurities and indecisions. . . . To allow a colleague to examine them would be to open a Pandora's box.”63 As representations of relationships, often by living observers, with living individuals or descendant communities, fieldnotes also present complex challenges for openness, privacy, and confidentiality. As librarians Andrew Asher and Lori Jahnke point out, decisions around issues of access, confidentiality of subjects, and appropriate use “cannot be made without the input of someone who is deeply knowledgeable about the contexts in which the research took place.” Like personal papers, fieldnote collections often represent the creative output and correspondence of an individual, but they also represent observational research data that constitutes the primary source for subsequent analysis and publication, often with particular interest for the communities under observation. Researchers' ethical obligations do not end at any given moment of transfer to an archives, and thus “these decision processes necessarily end at the moment when the materials are deposited in an archives or repository.”64

Further complicating the archival relationship to disciplinary practice, archivists tend to think in terms of institutional activity, an approach that does not always effectively map onto the activities of observation and knowledge creation within the field. Fieldnotes are not necessarily attached to one institutional activity, but document observations, which may include multiple ideas, thoughts, and opinions and represent multiple actions by anthropologists. Fieldnotes also differ greatly depending on their producer's subdiscipline: physical anthropologists' fieldnotes might include data sheets, while ethnobotanists might collect plant specimens alongside notes, and community scholars might collect digital video. Anthropology's subdisciplines have their own practices and approaches to data, and therefore approaches to fieldnotes and data archiving. Understanding fieldnotes and their particularities within the diversity of anthropological subfields as an archival genre is key to planning the future stewardship of the discipline.

Community Perspectives

A wider shift has taken place since the CoPAR of the 1990s: source communities are now many anthropological archives' fastest growing user groups.65 Moreover, in both the anthropological and archival fields, collaboration is the most common model for any archival project. Communities demand that archival and anthropological projects consider Indigenous models of knowledge and be mutually beneficial to repositories and community partners. This long overdue shift creates a new environment in which to consider the role of archival records, repositories, and professionals.

Digital or virtual “repatriation,” “reunification,” “returns,” or “knowledge sharing” projects are diversely mobilizing anthropological archival collections.66 In anthropology, such projects have been both theoretical and tangible. Many collaborative projects are mobilizing archives through the development of collaborative databases (e.g., Mukurtu,67 the Inuvialuit Living History,68 the Plateau Peoples' Web Portal,69 Local Contexts,70 Indigenous Digital Archive,71 the Great Lakes Research Alliance for the Study of Aboriginal Arts and Cultures,72 the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Data Archive,73 and the Reciprocal Research Network74).75 Each of these projects has, as museum anthropologist Haidy Geismar notes, shifted the way images and things are circulated and translated.76 These projects and their resulting platforms promote the needs of Indigenous communities and ways of knowing alongside those of library, archives, and museum (LAM) holding institutions.

However, many collaborative projects, despite good intentions, often have imbalanced power dynamics, where repositories benefit more than the participating communities. As Geismar says, “The struggle to represent difference using a standardized toolkit defines the tensions around power relations, the capacity of the digital to overwrite the analog, and therefore, the form of digital return.”77 Or, as archaeologist Robin Boast notes, “This asymmetry is built, literally and figuratively, into our institutions. . . . They are determined by our funding regimes, by our proscribed professional practices, and in museums, by the very roles that we fulfill collecting, documenting, and displaying.”78 The “contact zone,” a term coined by comparative literature scholar Mary Louise Pratt and promoted in museums by historian James Clifford, is not just a space of cross-cultural negotiation traversed by people and things.79 It is “inherently asymmetric” because it is “a site in and for the center.” Museums mask such “fundamental asymmetries, appropriations, and biases.”80

While researchers and repositories have begun to acknowledge that imperialist knowledge models frame all Western research, knowledge production, and institutions,81 even the most well-intentioned, collaborative, and thoroughly thought-out projects often leave communities with less than they anticipated. Worse, communities often feel they see the “tail lights” of settler researchers or institutions after a project is “complete.” Despite twenty years of work to decolonize the museum and promote “critical museology” in anthropology, we are still appropriating others' materials for study and interpretation in “glass boxes.”82

Increasingly, primary agency of the kind Boast and others advocate can be seen in Native communities that have begun to initiate their own projects, archives, and even formal Internal Review Board processes that reside in the community. Here, full power lies with the tribe or First Nation. As Jim Enote writes in his “Museum Collaboration Manifesto”:

No one has a right to restrict what we name or label this thing or that. . . . We will advocate for pure and virtuous collaboration. This is a higher order than many may be concerned with and implies that collaboration involves reaching out and enlightening on equal terms: to decentralize power and leadership and share problem solving. We will not oppose each other; rather we will enable one another and allow objects and people to speak. Through pure collaborative spirit we will pay tribute to voices of objects, as the objects should be perceived and understood.83

The Amidolanne—the Zuni word for rainbow—database at Zuni, Enote says, attempts to reunite distributed collections by and for Zuni “as well as control what information to share back with the host museums.”84 Other community-based archival projects, such as the Mulka Project,85 seek to steward cultural knowledge with the leadership of community members. The Ara Irititja database,86 for instance, is geared primarily to community members; its new portable Ara Winki No. 1 now can deliver that content to younger Anangu generations in community settings.87

Another example can be found at the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, which has formed a formal tribal Internal Review Board to regulate research in their community. Its guidelines read:

Before initiating a research project on the Qualla Boundary, please be mindful that it needs to be performed with an attitude of respect toward the community. It must come from a sense of integrity due to the community and its members regarding their lives and history. Not all inquiry is unwelcomed, only that which disregards the following guidelines.

The EBCI Cultural Research Committee does not accept any research projects dealing with traditional medicine or religious practices. Such information is not deemed appropriate for dissemination outside of the tribe.

Acquisition of traditional knowledge is not considered a right, but a privilege. An attitude of entitlement will not benefit a researcher and may appear to constitute exploitation.

Are you providing a desired service? The Cherokee concept of duyuktai is about balance. Any research project requires the taking of informant's time, knowledge, and experience. It is imperative that the researcher's project is of benefit not only to the informant, but to the tribe as a whole.

Few tribal members are impressed by titles or degrees. Tribal members will judge a researcher on their character, and especially their motives for conducting research.

The success of any research conducted with tribal members is dependant on the relationships built with people within the community. Please keep in mind that some tribal members are not receptive to any form of research or researchers.88

Such Indigenous regulations shift power to the community as a sovereign entity in any research project. As Kaplan notes, “If the profession accepts the views of archives as a form of representation, we must devise practicable ways to continue to do archival work without the positivist blinders of the past. The purely reflexive model is clearly not an option. We must settle for an imperfect but more self-aware and accountable practice.”89 From both an archival and an anthropological perspective, the next generation of CoPAR must thus shift its focus toward Indigenous sovereignty, access, facilitation, and empowerment, away from the mere preservation and academic use of aging anthropologists' papers.

In June 2015, we coordinated a workshop titled “Revitalizing CoPAR for the Digital Age: Addressing the Challenges and Accessibility of Analog, Digitized, and Born-Digital Anthropological Records” to explore the future of CoPAR. This project received funding support from the Wenner-Gren Foundation. The University of Maryland College of Information Studies provided administrative support, additional funding, and space to host our workshop participants.

The workshop brought together previous CoPAR participants and experts in cultural and linguistic anthropology, analog and digital ethnography, fieldwork, anthropological archives, research data curation, and repository management to provide a roadmap for the future of CoPAR and best practices for the discipline. We had two aims. First, we wanted to take stock of new methods in the field and current issues in light of the preservation and access of ethnographic materials in the digital age. Second, we wanted to plan next steps for revitalizing CoPAR and creating an infrastructure for data curation in anthropology.

We therefore began with open-ended discussions about the state of anthropological archives and use, and then progressed to next steps for revitalizing CoPAR. These included basic steps like reworking CoPAR's mission and content to reflect current anthropological production and record-making in the field, updating the website, as well as identifying relevant collaborators and mapping future project aims, including infrastructure or planning grants.

Prior to their arrival at the workshop, we asked our participants to read a few articles and respond to a series of questions. Diana Marsh collected and analyzed participant responses to these questions to present back to the group. Of our 24 external participants, 14 sent thorough responses. The following sections outline our attendees coded responses.90

1. What is your relationship to anthropological records?

The 28 workshop participants came from a wide range of self-defined roles relating to anthropological records. These included producers of anthropological records, including academic anthropologists and community researchers, as well as those making and overseeing databases; custodians of anthropological records, including archivists and repository managers as well as community custodians of newly formed archives; and users of anthropological records, including researchers and students of a range of anthropology topics, as well as teachers and community leaders using anthropological records for varied reasons. Table 1 summarizes the relationships of our participants to anthropology.

Table 1.

Workshop Participant Relationships to Anthropological Records

Workshop Participant Relationships to Anthropological Records
Workshop Participant Relationships to Anthropological Records

2. What kind of data do you use, produce, or oversee? How would you define research data in your field?

When we asked our participants to define “research data” in their field, responses ranged from as broad as “anything and everything” to as narrow as “defined by the researcher.” We found no one, singular way in which our participants defined research data. However, they generally agreed that research data was 1) observed (usually cultural) information or knowledge 2) directed and defined by research questions or problems 3) gleaned from the natural or human world in an inductive (and ideally collaborative manner), that in turn 4) shed light on those questions or problems. An open question among the group was whether analysis of primary data is itself a form of primary data.

Our participants characterized the wide-ranging records they produce, use, and oversee. These comprised a wide range of archival collections, including audio recordings, audiovisual media, quantitative data, secondary sources, and paper-based records and texts. (Table 2 shows the full range as sent by respondents.)

Table 2.

Types and Formats of Anthropological Data Discussed

Types and Formats of Anthropological Data Discussed
Types and Formats of Anthropological Data Discussed

While we focused on archival collections, a number of our participants also oversaw ethnographic objects or other museum collections. Collections could be digital or physical, and academically-produced or community-produced.

3. How are research data used and how do you anticipate them reused in the next 50 years? Who are the primary and emergent users of your research data?

When we asked our participants how they anticipated the records they produce, use, or oversee being used in the next 50 years, they named such uses as research articles and monographs as well as networks, databases, and other computational analyses, in addition to longitudinal studies. Teaching was also articulated as a primary use both in academic and community contexts. Participants also envisioned community uses such as political or cultural advocacy. They also noted the shift toward coproduction and shared use of records among collaborators and wider definitions of use, access, and stewardship being key. In addition to acknowledging the potential for positively impactful unanticipated uses, our participants expressed fear over use without contextual knowledge of records and their content, as well as the instances in which such knowledge cannot be used or shared.

When asked who our participants envisioned as the primary and emergent users of such knowledge, they split their responses between community and noncommunity users. However, in general, the group acknowledged that the balance has shifted from research-based, academic use to community use overall. (Table 3 summarizes the gamut of users.)

Table 3.

Community and Noncommunity Users

Community and Noncommunity Users
Community and Noncommunity Users

4. Given your experience and the pre-circulated articles, what is changing (in research data production, use, preservation, ethics)? How do you see the creation of anthropological/ethnographic records and their use shifting in the digital age?

Participants' responses to this final question provided important context for our workshop. Participants articulated new opportunities and challenges for anthropological records in the digital era. On one hand, greater access to anthropological archives and research data is broadening what it means to perform research. New technology facilitates new connections and easier dissemination of research results across distributed knowledge (to communities), and this results in more knowledge infrastructures being built, stewarded, and curated collaboratively with originating communities. Moreover, contemporary collaborative research practice blurs the boundaries between the researcher and participants. Many researchers sustain such relationships using information and communication technologies; there are several new notable digital initiatives and platforms that facilitate repatriation. Archival digital surrogates open archives to broader audiences and make possible unanticipated users and uses of digitized resources.

On the other hand, the field faces several key challenges. These fall under the following five categories:

  1. Infrastructure/Landscape. Research collections across cultural heritage repositories are increasing in volume, which presents data management, metadata, and archiving challenges. Managing the influx of research data requires (costly) technical infrastructure and new skills. Librarians, archivists, and researchers are still adjusting to the relatively new data curation mandate. There is greater demand to acquire new skills, expertise, and technologies to accomplish the task, as well as more emphasis on the process to grapple with more complex relationships and records life cycles.

  2. Access. Expectation is increasing among users for access beyond repositories' capacity to share. Tribal archives, on the other hand, are reluctant to digitize and share, due to histories of collecting and colonialism. Born-digital records provide new challenges to access with their organization and formats. Because reliance on digital search tools (research begins online) is more widespread, repository systems require more compatibility and more robust digitization programs. Overall, while access to records appears to have increased, many collections and search interfaces are difficult to navigate for nonacademics and community users.

  3. Ethics/Impacts. The ease of digital access to records leads to unpredictable uses, which is causing widespread fear about ethical or culturally based controls. There is a great need for more case-by-case ethical standards in more complex research and community environments.

  4. Digital/Analog. Digital records are fundamentally more unstable media, and the digitization of materials also can result in loss of knowledge (e.g., scanning one side of a document, or losing an item's material qualities). The value of analog media is sometimes overlooked. Data are born archival in digital form, further blurring distinctions between fieldnotes, data, and “finished” materials.

  5. Life-cycle Thinking. While digital curation and holistic thinking have become common in other fields, diversity of the field and its conflicted conceptions of data and research materials inhibit anthropology, as does its resistance to preserving data. In anthropology, no holistic life cycle of data thinking exists

Workshop Part I: Views from Data Curation and Anthropological Repositories

We began our workshop with overviews of digital data curation and the state of anthropology records. Margaret Hedstrom described digital curation as a process that could 1) begin with creation or even conception of data production; and 2) may entail interventions long after information is collected or created. Digital curation involves a cast of agents (subjects, users, system designers, data managers, funders, commercial interests, curators) that might have incompatible, competing, or contradictory interests, as well as vast differentials in power and influence. Digital curation is also a distributed process: technologically, in terms of storage, processing, analysis, publication, and so on; temporally, across time; via actors; in different spaces. As echoed in later conversations, Hedstrom thus outlined the ways in which digital curation involves a growing “cast of characters” with many interests, sometimes compatible but often not, and with differential power—including research subjects, those designing the technology, funders, commercial interests, and curators.

One of the major concerns of digital curation is that of understanding the “generic” problems in data curation versus discipline-specific concerns. Generic concerns include the 1) security of data; 2) its accessibility; 3) its interpretation; and 4) the cost and funding of the enterprise. All data curation must also look to both the past and present in its orientation, without trying to imagine the future, and maintain transparency and documentation from multiple perspectives. For the group for the duration of the workshop, Hedstrom posed the following questions: 1) How can curation add the most value and do the least harm at a reasonable cost? 2) Is it possible for anyone to resolve (or “balance”) contradictory interests (which ones, who, and how)? Specific concerns include the rights of actors, the values attributed to assets, the nature and timing of any intervention, attitudes about sharing and reuse, privacy and potential misuse, and any methodological, epistemological, or ontological questions inherent in any kind of data.

Robert Leopold presented an overview of anthropological records and our knowledge of their shifts with the influx of digital technologies and formats. Overall, Leopold was confident about the field's ability to preserve anthropological records, while skeptical about how it might do so coherently and ethically. Leopold noted the twenty-five-year legacy of CoPAR's previous efforts and the Historical Archives Program, which, early on, alerted anthropologists to the value of preserving their records. He mentioned many (distributed) existing efforts (e.g., the Intellectual Property Issues in Cultural Heritage research project, Mukurtu, tDAR, the Alexandria Archive Institute, the Anthropological Data Digital Preservation and Access report, the Archive of Indigenous Languages of Latin America, the Registry of Anthropological Data Wiki), as well as the recent influx of requirements for data management plans from NSF and other governmental organizations. He noted the increased support from foundations and the growth of expertise in the area overall, as well as increased public exposure to anthropological records through digital media outlets.

On the other hand, he noted, the lack of holistic or coherent effort across the field. Repositories of anthropological records are dealing with the diversity of the field and its conflicted conceptions of data and research materials, as well as a resistance to preserving data. If the scale of the field is vast, and anthropologists cannot agree on what constitutes anthropological records; then, the “field” can be everywhere, and data, anything.

On a broader scale, Leopold brought up the practical aspects of competing with the speed of change over the past twenty years (every time a repository or individual finished “preserving electronic data,” they became obsolete) as well as other inherent paradoxes. One such paradox is a lack of fit between the goals of preservation and the AAA code of ethics, which stipulates (due to confidentiality issues) that data should be destroyed after use. Repositories cannot keep up with organizing the ever-increasing volume of incoming analog material, let alone begin to consider what its total digitization will mean. Furthermore, digital materials require greater care than their analog counterparts, while not being inherently easy to use, interpret, or find. Digitization increases, not diminishes, ethical concerns (and the need to incorporate community-specific cultural protocols). Anthropologists' agreements with communities for use of materials often are not transferable once they reach repositories. The field also suffers from a longer-standing problem of no “precustodial intervention” for producers of records, compounded by the fact that few anthropologists actually donate papers to repositories, despite their ability to do so.

Workshop Part II: User and Producer Needs

Our first group session sought to identify needs of producers and users of anthropological records. We used our group's expertise to understand the new and traditional users of anthropological (now often digitized) records and emergent uses of anthropological resources. We broke the participants into groups and asked them to articulate the potential needs of users and producers of anthropological records.

Our participants translated the five challenges above into specific needs of users and producers of anthropological records.

Users of records

This group is highly varied and often includes the producers of records. User needs include, first, clear guidelines on using materials ethically, considering access restrictions (including traditional or alternative copyright), terms and conditions for use, ethical stewardship (including collaboration and knowledge sharing approaches), and modes of providing feedback (becoming a more active part of the life cycle of record use); second, outreach to help users identify repositories, to share clearer guidelines for using and searching repositories, to include communities as part of the process, and to forge connections beyond the repository; and third, user-oriented infrastructures that ideally take into account expectations of the Google search capabilities, provide full text or access to materials, contextualize and make transparent interpretation, use standardized citation information, are interactive, and aspire to be efficient and free. Users place more emphasis on community-based, rather than academic, use.

Producers of records

Producers include primarily community members and anthropologists. Their needs include, first, new infrastructures, including institutional structures necessary to facilitate relationships, as well as digital or physical spaces to keep materials, interoperable systems (with other archives), searchability across file types, interactivity or feedback mechanisms, money for processing, and public (online) venues to showcase their work and materials; second, guidelines on ethics (including graduated or tiered access; maintaining transparent, respectful, mutual, and lasting relationships with communities and users; creating appropriate approaches to research at early stages, and consent as an ongoing process); and third, training on such topics as high-performing file storage and organizational tools, identifying and maintaining appropriate stewardship, tools for different kinds of media, laws and cultural protocols, information or cyber security, estate planning for intellectual materials, and especially identifying or collaborating with communities.

Later in the workshop, the group stressed that repository managers and other administrative leadership would be needed in CoPAR to ensure that institutional, organizational, fiscal, or other needs would be considered in tandem with these other groups.

Workshop Part III: Roles for a Revitalized CoPAR

Our second session sought to identify organizational possibilities and revitalized goals for CoPAR, asking: What would CoPAR as an organization do for its different stakeholders? What service could it provide? What uses would we anticipate? What niche would it fill? This work identified what new avenues might exist for fostering awareness of the importance of preserving anthropological records, and how we might better serve potential users or producers of records. Roles for CoPAR included service and outreach for each of the following stakeholder groups identified

Research participants and communities

These include senior, teaching, and emerging anthropologists. CoPAR might provide increased education on preparing materials for archives; methods; citation of data sets and other records; personal digital archiving standards; stewardship; proposal submission; and community outreach (e.g., notifying originating communities of materials they are finding and accessing). Such services might take place through coordination with graduate programs, professional development venues (perhaps via AAA), open reviews of data and projects, and workshops for awardees from granting or other large organizations.

Outside and community researchers

CoPAR might provide guidelines for preparing materials for archives; outreach for the general public (e.g., what's in archives that treat these topics); training kits for K–12 or Indigenous classrooms; “how to” videos on research in repositories; downloadable templates available to communities for education, research agreements, and consent forms; modules for education using primary materials; flowcharts of decision-making; funding guides (e.g., where to go, how to apply); archival fellows in Indigenous communities; downloadable standards packages (e.g., file headings, file types, PDF-readable metadata, searchable thesauri) for those entering the field; and more general resources geared toward community researchers.

Libraries and archives

CoPAR might provide advice on infrastructure or user interfaces; training in community outreach; guidelines for ontologies and metadata standards; and a network of community members to contact.

Workshop Part IV: A New Mandate

Our third session asked participants to write a new mandate for CoPAR for different communities we had identified in previous sessions. This allowed us to rework CoPAR's mission and content to reflect current anthropological production and record-making in the field, as well as the needs of relevant stakeolders, asking: What kinds of consultation or technical assistance can CoPAR provide to practitioners and repository management specialists? How can we best update records for the location and access to records to include digital materials? How can we foster new collaborations between repositories, practitioners, and tribal archivists?

The groups agreed that the primary mission of a revitalized CoPAR was one of advocacy and leadership, including advocating better access for communities; promoting data curation as a research infrastructure; revising IRB and human subjects research requirements to align with preservation mandates; expanding cataloging beyond a Western standard; promoting anthropology, cultural diversity, and why records matter; and promoting best practices overall.

Workshop Part V: Actionable Strategies

Our final session asked participants to strategize CoPAR's overall roadmap to organizational renewal. The discussion touched on logistical considerations such as updating the website and identifying relevant collaborators, as well as mapping future project aims, such as infrastructure or planning grants. Next steps the group identified included expanding a professional interested network; building a (perhaps interactive) hub or portal for resources (from CoPAR or other institutions); collating existing guidelines; revitalizing its database of records and repositories; revising bulletins and publications to publicize activities; expanding collaborations (such as StoryCorps, AAA, tDAR); becoming a point of contact or mediator between producers, users, and keepers; building a membership; identifying possible funders; forming a board; and considering a 501c3 status or other affiliation.

Some open questions and challenges linger. How can we bring more technical expertise to the table? In a rapidly shifting field, technical developments prevent the need to hand-generate noninteroperable metadata. A designated technologist or Technical Advisory Board was suggested. Should there be a formal survey to assess needs? The group suggested that a survey among identified stakeholders on a broad scale could help to identify additional mandates for CoPAR and ensure its use and sustainability. Does the organization need an institutional home, and if so, what would it be? Participants discussed a university affiliation, versus a Smithsonian Institution affiliation, versus a consortium model (such as the Archival Education and Research Initiative [AERI]), versus a digital repository (such as tDAR), versus another organization (such as the AAA).

A fundamental tension emerged between research-driven and applied approaches to renewing CoPAR. The group asked whether CoPAR needed a driving research question. We discussed whether participation in CoPAR would be part of a wider research program, which would in turn encourage participation and funding opportunities. If it was to become a research-driven organization, could it also be a training-driven, applied organization? The group was split between interests in a research-driven and a primarily training-based, applied organization.

Moving forward, the main fieldwide needs CoPAR should address will be creating or collating guidelines on ethics for producers, stewards, and users; promoting user-oriented infrastructures; providing or linking potential producers or users to relevant training; and conducting outreach and advocacy work for anthropological archives.

From among the strategies discussed, the workshop generated a number of concrete products and projects among its participants in the time since. These include:

  • Creation of an Advisory Board and Working Group91

  • Redesigning and hosting the new CoPAR website at the University of Maryland (

  • Conference presentations, including an Invited Session at the AAA entitled “CoPAR and the Re-Use of Anthropological Archives in the Digital Age,” which was webcast and can be viewed on Youtube92

  • Reworking and updating the CoPAR index of anthropological repositories93

  • Generation of relevant resources hosted on the new site

The most crucial next step is to publish a new series of bulletins; we are currently seeking funding for that effort.

Despite the growing prevalence of digital recording technology, the shift in purpose from the CoPAR of the 1990s to a future CoPAR cannot be merely technological. In the 1990s, much of CoPAR's mission was educating anthropologists and scholars about the value of their materials, but a future CoPAR must focus on getting the word out to communities and the wider public. User expectations for one-stop, comprehensive “Amazoogle” searching are creating new pressures on repositories to improve their access interfaces.94 This results in a fieldwide need to encourage, educate, and advocate for both scholarly and nonscholarly publics to use and make records, while also managing expectations and ethical use. The two major shifts that will redefine CoPAR's role are 1) community-driven, collaborative models; and 2) holistic, life-cycle-focused data curation. While technological advances have made these approaches possible and necessary, they entail broader shifts in thinking about best practices than questions such as “How do I save my email?,” which indeed still seem to plague older generations of academics.

Community Collaboration and the Sovereignty of Native People

Digital technologies have developed in tandem with wider trends in collaboration so that digital knowledge-sharing projects are beginning to define the field. As we have seen, collaborative projects, databases, new models of Indigenous or culturally specific copyright, and restorative research projects have become the norm.95 As one participant, Nadine Dangerfield, put it,

. . . in anthropological research, increasingly the boundaries between the people who are providing insights and information and the researcher are disappearing. Research and data should be used collaboratively to promote social learning, and technology can facilitate this process. The primary and emergent users of the data are the people who provided it; they will increasingly own it and be involved in its creation and use.

Much of the field thus focuses on facilitating community researchers, elders, or repositories to help steward knowledge (held at home or in traditional repositories) more responsibly. New technologies are theoretically making this easier.

Yet, many communities are still left without the technical infrastructures or research expertise—what Elizabeth Yakel and Deborah Torres call “archival intelligence”—to take part in this seemingly glittering present.96 In many tribal communities, band offices with dial-up internet lines are the only places to access archival collections. Many repository and research interfaces are not yet accessible on phone technologies, which are much more accessible. Tribal elders and other community members are not as fluent in seeking or using the resources imagined for their use or input. A recent pilot study at the National Anthropological Archives, for instance, has shown that community members tend to search by community name or subject terms, rather than by anthropologist or creator names, making their searches less successful.97 As Brian Carpenter has recently noted, still today “many community-based experts, and sometimes even tribal government entities, believe that they have to work through a third party, often a non-Native university-based researcher or an independent consulting firm, to be granted access” to archival repositories.98 Thus, CoPAR can play an important role as a liaison, advocate, and outreach organization. CoPAR can also create resources to educate archival professionals, researchers, and community members about archival organization, best practices, ongoing research, and how to participate.

Like many historical societies seeking family genealogy researchers, CoPAR might act as a landing site for users, producers, or repositories of anthropological records. For users, CoPAR could create, facilitate, or link to “how to” videos that help users understand how to navigate repository databases, download or upload resources, or deposit their knowledge collections. CoPAR may be able to collaborate with anthropological and archival organizations such as AAA or SAA, both of which are undertaking efforts to educate their field's professionals in similar skill sets. For instance, AAA has created modules on data management,99 and SAA is publishing case studies about the implementation of the Protocols for Native American Archival Materials.100 Anthropologists and archivists working with other communities of color share these concerns for Native and Indigenous communities, proving that CoPAR has potential to become a fieldwide resource.

For both community and scholarly knowledge bearers, a future CoPAR might act as a portal to training resources. In the workshop, some suggestions included creating clear guidelines for searchable thesauri (or plug-and-play additions of metadata), simple personal digital archiving standards, and models or templates for standard file headers, file types, folders, or PDFs with readable metadata. Portable training kits for Native community members (and perhaps aging anthropologists as well) could be produced and disseminated by the organization. Training sessions held in communities or at conferences where community-based scholars attend could assist tribal offices or museums to either start or improve their own tribal archives and databases according to current standards. CoPAR might also facilitate, guide, or link community members to funding resources, including grants as well as other opportunities for Native scholars, students, and knowledge keepers, such as fellowships, training, or job opportunities in this area.

Life-cycle Data Curation

The lack of holistic data curation and life-cycle thinking in the anthropological records field was clear in the workshop. Anthropological repositories trail behind other fields such as archives and libraries.

In the museum field, curation might refer to the stewardship of object collections, the research and cataloging of those collections, or the arrangement of those objects in physical space—whether in storage or in public exhibition spaces; likewise, digital data curation refers to the total process of managing a digital collection (whether raw data or digital surrogates) throughout its life cycle. This includes guaranteeing the preservation and maintenance of data as well as promoting their aggregate value and secondary use or re-use in a range of knowledge production. The first issue of the International Journal of Digital Curation stressed the importance of the use of this terminology to both connote the transfer of “existing curatorial approaches” such as tracking “the documentation accompanying individual objects and collections which provides the relevant context and history for research, learning, and discovery” and honing “skills, domain expertise, and knowledge” of staff focused on such collections. The term was also used to denote the “changes that are needed in approaches to curation of digital as opposed to analogue artefacts.”101

The field needs to liaise with larger organizations and professionals in archival science to bridge this gap. As Hedstrom pointed out, digital data curation is inherently a distributed process, so it requires high-level thinking and collaboration across institutions to carry out. CoPAR might act as a central node for this kind of work. Training, workshops, and other modes of disseminating standardized practices might bring users, producers, and repositories of anthropological records into tune with one another about digital records stewardship.

When CoPAR was founded in the 1990s, its goal was to encourage the field of anthropology to be more proactive about producing and preserving archives. Anthropologists did not readily realize the archival value of their materials; records were distributed and disjointed. Given the recent tragic fire at Brazil's National Museum and efforts to reconstitute lost object and archival collections through the virtual reunification of anthropologists' archives around the world, it goes without saying that those efforts must continue. However, a revitalized CoPAR should continue to consider those issues while focusing more on source community needs and wider trends in digital data curation. This includes a more comprehensive approach to endorsing community sovereignty over knowledge and a more coherent fieldwide approach to ethical data life-cycle thinking. We have a fieldwide need to encourage, educate, and advocate for scholars and community (or nonscholarly) audiences to use and make records, and to draw on existing best practices and scholarship from archival and information science fields, while also managing expectations and ethical use, and preserving anthropological records in all their variation for future generations.

Diana E. Marsh is a museum anthropologist and postdoctoral fellow at the National Anthropological Archives (NAA), part of the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. At the NAA, she is leading a three-year NSF-funded project to research the use, access, and discoverability of the NAA's collections. She completed her Ph.D. in anthropology at the University of British Columbia in 2014, her M.Phil. in social anthropology with a museums and heritage focus at the University of Cambridge in 2010, and B.F.A.s in visual arts and photography at the Mason Gross School of the Arts of Rutgers University in 2009.

Diana E. Marsh is a museum anthropologist and postdoctoral fellow at the National Anthropological Archives (NAA), part of the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. At the NAA, she is leading a three-year NSF-funded project to research the use, access, and discoverability of the NAA's collections. She completed her Ph.D. in anthropology at the University of British Columbia in 2014, her M.Phil. in social anthropology with a museums and heritage focus at the University of Cambridge in 2010, and B.F.A.s in visual arts and photography at the Mason Gross School of the Arts of Rutgers University in 2009.

Close modal

Ricardo L. Punzalan is associate professor of archives and digital curation at the College of Information Studies, University of Maryland, College Park. He is also affiliate faculty in the Department of Anthropology and the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH) and codirects Maryland's Museum Scholarship and Material Culture program. He is recipient of an early-career grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to study and develop strategies to assess the impact of access to digitized ethnographic archives for academic and Indigenous community users. He currently runs a research and fellowship program to enhance agricultural data curation efforts at the US National Agricultural Library. Punzalan holds a PhD in information as well as graduate certificates in science, technology, and society (STS) and museum studies from the University of Michigan. He previously taught on the faculty of the University of the Philippines School of Library and Information Studies.

Ricardo L. Punzalan is associate professor of archives and digital curation at the College of Information Studies, University of Maryland, College Park. He is also affiliate faculty in the Department of Anthropology and the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH) and codirects Maryland's Museum Scholarship and Material Culture program. He is recipient of an early-career grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to study and develop strategies to assess the impact of access to digitized ethnographic archives for academic and Indigenous community users. He currently runs a research and fellowship program to enhance agricultural data curation efforts at the US National Agricultural Library. Punzalan holds a PhD in information as well as graduate certificates in science, technology, and society (STS) and museum studies from the University of Michigan. He previously taught on the faculty of the University of the Philippines School of Library and Information Studies.

Close modal

Jesse A. Johnston is a senior digital collections specialist at the Library of Congress and an adjunct faculty member at the University of Maryland iSchool. From 2013 to 2018, he was a senior program officer for preservation and access and acting records officer at the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Previously, he was an archives specialist at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. His research focuses on user practices in archives, performance of Moravian traditional music, and ethnomusicology. He holds a PhD in musicology and an MSI in archives and records management, both from the University of Michigan.

Jesse A. Johnston is a senior digital collections specialist at the Library of Congress and an adjunct faculty member at the University of Maryland iSchool. From 2013 to 2018, he was a senior program officer for preservation and access and acting records officer at the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Previously, he was an archives specialist at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. His research focuses on user practices in archives, performance of Moravian traditional music, and ethnomusicology. He holds a PhD in musicology and an MSI in archives and records management, both from the University of Michigan.

Close modal

Funding for our workshop was provided by Gr. CONF-702 from the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research.

1 Nancy J. Parezo, “Preserving Anthropology's Heritage: CoPAR, Anthropological Records, and the Archival Community,” American Archivist 62, no. 2 (1999): 276–77,

2 Parezo, “Preserving Anthropology's Heritage,” 277. See also Nancy J. Parezo, Don D. Fowler, and Sydel Silverman, “Preserving the Anthropological Record: A Decade of CoPAR Initiatives,” Current Anthropology 44, no. 1 (2003): 111–16,

3 Robert V. Kemper, “The Potentials and Problems of Computers,” ed. Sydel Silverman and Nancy J. Parezo, Preserving the Anthropological Record (Washington, DC: Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, Inc., 1995), 11.

4 Work at Columbia University recently digitized and attempted to reconstruct data for the Language and Culture Atlas of Ashkenazic Jewry, a 1960s project that generated punchcard and printout data that was no longer electronically accessible. The work was partially funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (grant PW-228212-15,

5 Kemper, “The Potentials and Problems of Computers,” 11.

6 See Paul Conway, “Rationale for Digitization and Preservation,” in Museums in a Digital Age, ed. Ross Parry (New York: Routledge, 2010), 365–76.

7 Conway “Rationale for Digitization and Preservation.”

8 We draw here on Appadurai's use of the suffix “scape,” which evokes the fluid but irregular nature of global cultural flows that traverse language, media, finance, and politics, to suggest a complex “informationscape” in which anthropological records are now stewarded and circulate. Appadurai also discusses technoscapes. Arjun Appadurai, Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996), 33.

9 Carole L. Palmer, Nicholas M. Weber, Trevor Muñoz, Allen H. Renear, “Foundations of Data Curation: The Pedagogy and Practice of ‘Purposeful Work’ with Research Data,” Archive Journal (June 2013),

10 See Laura L. Peers and Alison K. Brown, Museums and Source Communities: A Routledge Reader (New York: Routledge, 2003).

11 Robert Leopold, “From the Paperless Office to the Paper-Free Archive,” CoPAR-Sponsored Panel “Becoming Historians of Ourselves” (paper presented at the 104th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, Washington, DC, 2005).

12 See “Archiving Culture in the Digital Age, August 6–7,” (Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Anthropology Centre, Taling Chan, Bangkok, 2009); and “Toward an Integrated Plan for Digital Preservation and Access to Primary Anthropological Data (AnthroDataDPA): A Four-Field Workshop,” May 18–20, Washington, DC, 2009 (cosponsored by Wenner-Gren and the National Science Foundation).

13 Oona Schmid and Lisa Cliggett, “Workshop on a Registry of Anthropological Data” (Arlington, VA, 2011).

14 This effort is reflected in the Registry of Anthropological Data Wiki,

15 North Dakota State University, Digital Archive Network for Anthropology and World Heritage. The DANA site was most recently updated in 2004, but archived versions remain accessible, (archived June 30, 2017).

16 Jeffrey T. Clark et al., “Digital Archive Network for Anthropology,” Journal of Digital Information 2, no. 4 (2002),

17 Leigh Anne Ellison, “Digital Antiquity tDAR Workshops” (press release, May 20, 2011),

18 Lisa Cliggett and Elizabeth A. Faier, “The Lifecycle of Ethnographic Information—Challenges in the Preservation and Accessibility of Qualitative Data” (paper presented at the American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting, Washington, DC, 2014).

19 Elizabeth Kaplan, “‘Many Paths to Partial Truths’: Archives, Anthropology, and the Power of Representation,” Archival Science 2, nos. 3–4 (2002): 211.

20 Russell H. Bernard, Handbook of Methods in Cultural Anthropology (Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press, 2000). This has been confirmed by a pilot study run at the National Anthropological Archives as part of the NSF-sponsored project, “realign”; see Diana E. Marsh, “Toward Inclusive Museum Archives: User Research at the Smithsonian's National Anthropological Archives,” in Defining the Museum in the 21st Century: Evolving Multiculturalism in Museums in the United States, ed. Y. S. S. Chung, A. Leshchenko, and B. B. Soares (Paris: International Committee for Museology, 2019), 129–43.

21 Hannah Turner, “Critical Histories of Museum Catalogues,” Museum Anthropology 39, no. 2 (2016): 102,

22 A. Irving Hallowell, “The History of Anthropology as an Anthropological Problem,” Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences 1, no. 1 (1965): 24–38,<24::AID-JHBS2300010105>3.0.CO;2-B.

23 See George W. Stocking, Race, Culture, and Evolution: Essays in the History of Anthropology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1968); The Shaping of American Anthropology, 1883–1911: A Franz Boas Reader (New York: Basic Books, 1974); Observers Observed: Essays on Ethnographic Fieldwork (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1983); Victorian Anthropology (New York: Free Press, 1987); The Ethnographer's Magic and Other Essays in the History of Anthropology (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1992); and After Tylor: British Social Anthropology, 1888–1951 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1995).

24 Stocking, Observers Observed: Essays on Ethnographic Fieldwork, 3; See also Robert V. Kemper and John F. S. Phinney, The History of Anthropology: A Research Bibliography (New York: Garland Publication Company, 1977).

25 Kemper and Phinney, The History of Anthropology, 4.

26 James Clifford and George E. Marcus, Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986); George E. Marcus and Michael Fischer, Anthropology as Cultural Critique (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986).

27 Don D. Fowler, A Laboratory for Anthropology: Science and Romanticism in the American Southwest, 1846–1930 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2000); Ira Jacknis, The Storage Box of Tradition: Kwakiutl Art, Anthropologists, and Museums, 1881–1981 (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2002).

28 Fredrik Barth, Robert Parkin, Andre Gingrich, and Sydel Silverman, One Discipline, Four Ways: British, German, French, and American Anthropology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005).

29 Manuela Fischer et al., Adolf Bastian and His Universal Archive of Humanity: The Origins of German Anthropology (Hildesheim: G. Olms, 2007).

30 Curtis Hinsley, The Smithsonian and the American Indian: Making a Moral Anthropology in Victorian America (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1994).

31 George W. Stocking, Objects and Others: Essays on Museums and Material Culture (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985); Nancy J Parezo and Don Fowler, Anthropology Goes to the Fair: The 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2007); Michael O'Hanlon and Robert Louis Welsh, Hunting the Gatherers: Ethnographic Collectors, Agents and Agency in Melanesia, 1870s–1930s (New York: Berghahn Books, 2000); Susan Pearce, Museums, Objects and Collections: A Cultural Study (Leicester, UK: Leicester University Press, 1992); On Collecting: An Investigation into Collecting in the European Tradition (New York: Routledge, 1995).

32 Catherine A. Nichols, “Lost in Museums: The Ethical Dimensions of Historical Practices of Anthropological Specimen Exchange,” Curator: The Museum Journal 57, no. 2 (2014): 225–36,; “Exchanging Anthropological Duplicates at the Smithsonian Institution,” Museum Anthropology 39, no. 2 (2016): 130–46,; Candace S. Greene “Material Connections: ‘The Smithsonian Effect’ in Anthropological Cataloguing,” Museum Anthropology 39, no. 2 (2016): 147–62,; Diana E. Marsh “Trace Ethnography, Affect, and Institutional Ecologies in the Distributed Records of a Plaster Model,” Museum Anthropology 39, no. 2 (2016): 111–29,

33 Joshua A. Bell, Alison K. Brown, and Robert J. Gordon, Recreating First Contact: Expeditions, Anthropology, and Popular Culture (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 2013); Joshua A. Bell and Erin L. Hasinoff, The Anthropology of Expeditions: Travel, Visualities, Afterlives (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015).

34 Elizabeth Edwards, Raw Histories: Photographs, Anthropology and Museums (New York: Berg Publishers, 2001); Aaron Glass, “A Cannibal in the Archive: Performance, Materiality, and (in)Visibility in Unpublished Edward Curtis Photographs of the Kwakwaka'wakw Hamat'sa,” Visual Anthropology Review 25, no. 2 (2009): 128–49,; Gwyneira Isaac, “Re-Observation and the Recognition of Change: The Photographs of Matilda Coxe Stevenson (1879–1915),” Journal of the Southwest 47, no. 3 (2005): 411–55; Diana E. Marsh, “Reassembling the Social Life of a Medicine Man: Reassessing Otherness, Agency and Authorship in the Wellcome Archives,” Journal of Material Culture 20, no. 2 (2015): 211–45,

35 Marcus Banks and Richard Vokes, “Introduction: Anthropology, Photography and the Archive,” History and Anthropology 21, no. 4 (2010): 337–49,; Deborah Poole, “An Excess of Description: Ethnography, Race, and Visual Technologies,” Annual Review of Anthropology 34 (2005): 159–79,

36 Ross Parry, Museums in a Digital Age (New York: Routledge, 2010); Joshua A. Bell, Kimberly Christen, and Mark Turin, “Introduction: After the Return,” Museum Anthropology Review 7, nos. 1–2 (2013).

37 Tom Boellstorff, Coming of Age in Second Life: An Anthropologist Explores the Virtually Human (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010).

38 Tom Boellstorff, “Rethinking Digital Anthropology,” in Digital Anthropology, ed. Heather A. Horst and Daniel Miller (New York: Berg, 2012), 40.

39 Daniel Miller, Tales from Facebook (Boston: Polity Press, 2011).

40 Tom Boellstorff, Bonnie Nardi, and Celia Pearce, Ethnography and Virtual Worlds: A Handbook of Method (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012); Roger Sanjek and Susan W. Tratner, Efieldnotes: The Makings of Anthropology in the Digital World (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016).

41 Lisa M. Given and Lianne McTavish, “What's Old Is New Again: The Reconvergence of Libraries, Archives, and Museums in the Digital Age,” Library Quarterly 80, no. 1 (2010): 7–32,

42 Given and McTavish, “What's Old Is New Again,” 28.

43 Given and McTavish, “What's Old Is New Again,” 28.

44 David Zeitlyn, “Anthropology in and of the Archives: Possible Futures and Contingent Pasts. Archives as Anthropological Surrogates,” Annual Review of Anthropology 41 (2012): 461–80,

45 Zeitlyn, “Anthropology in and of the Archives,” 275.

46 Nicholas B. Dirks, “Colonial Histories and Native Informants: The Biography of an Archive,” in Orientalism and the Postcolonial Predicament: Perspectives on South Asia, ed. Carol A. Breckenridge and Peter Van der Veer (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993), 279–313; Karen F. Gracy, “Documenting Communities of Practice: Making the Case for Archival Ethnography,” Archival Science 4, nos. 3–4 (2004): 335–65,; Kalpana Shankar, “Recordkeeping in the Production of Scientific Knowledge: An Ethnographic Study,” Archival Science 4, nos. 3–4 (2004): 367–82,; Ciaran B. Trace, “What Is Recorded Is Never Simply ‘What Happened’: Record-Keeping in Modern Organizational Culture,” Archival Science 2, no. 1 (2002): 137–59,

47 Turner, “Critical Histories of Museum Catalogues,” 2016.

48 Terry Cook, “Evidence, Memory, Identity, and Community: Four Shifting Archival Paradigms,” Archival Science 13 (2013): 114,

49 Michelle Caswell, Ricardo L. Punzalan, and T-Kay Sangwand, “Critical Archival Studies: An Introduction,” Journal of Critical Library and Information Studies 1, no. 2 (2017),

50 Suzanne Fischer, “Nota Bene: If You ‘Discover’ Something in an Archive, It's Not a Discovery,” The Atlantic, June 19, 2012,

51 Katie Kirakosian and Heidi Bauer-Clapp, “A Walk in the Woods: Adapting Archaeological Training to Archival Discovery,” Advances in Archaeological Practice 5, no. 3 (2017): 297–304,

52 Protocols for Native American Archival Materials, Also see Jennifer R. O'Neal, “Respect, Recognition, and Reciprocity: The Protocols for Native American Archival Materials,” in Identity Palimpsests: Archiving Ethnicity in the U.S. and Canada, ed. Dominique Daniel and Amalia Levi (Sacramento: Litwin Books, 2014), 125–42; Jennifer O'Neal “‘The Right to Know’: Decolonizing Native American Archives,” Journal of Western Archives 6, no. 1 (2015),

53 For examples of proactive efforts, see Ricardo Punzalan, Melissa Stoner, Diana Marsh, Caitlin Haynes, Brian Carpenter, Liza Posas, and Gina Rappaport, “Culturally Responsive and Ethical Access: Promoting Transparency in Archival Repositories with Indigenous Collections,” Archival Outlook (May/June 2019).

54 Timothy Powell, “Digital Knowledge Sharing: Forging Partnerships between Scholars, Archives, and Indigenous Communities,” Museum Anthropology Review 10, no. 2 (2016), See also Brian Carpenter, “Archival Initiatives for the Indigenous Collections at the American Philosophical Society,” Case Studies Series, Society of American Archivists, Another similar effort is underway at the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage at the Smithsonian.

55 Carpenter, “Archival Initiatives for the Indigenous Collections at the American Philosophical Society.”

56 Society of American Archivists, “SAA Council Endorsement of Protocols for Native American Archival Materials” (August 14, 2018),

57 Wendy M. Duff, Andrew Flinn, Karen Emily Suurtamm, and David A. Wallace, “Social Justice Impact of Archives: A Preliminary Investigation,” Archival Science 13, no. 4 (2013): 317–48,

58 Ricardo L. Punzalan, “Understanding Virtual Reunification,” Library Quarterly 84, no. 3 (2014): 294–323,

59 The Digital Curation Centre's life-cycle model, in particular, offers an approach that incorporates data curation activities alongside preservation and access functions. Sarah Higgins, “The DCC Curation Lifecycle Model,” International Journal of Digital Curation 3 (2008): 135–40,

60 Roger Sanjek, ed., Fieldnotes: The Makings of Anthropology (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1990).

61 Jean Jackson, “‘I Am a Fieldnote’: Fieldnotes as a Symbol of Professional Identity,” in Fieldnotes: The Makings of Anthropology, 7.

62 See Andrew Asher and Lori M. Jahnke, “Curating the Ethnographic Moment,” Archive Journal (June 2013),

63 George C. Bond, “Fieldnotes: Research in Past Occurences,” Archive Journal (June 2013): 273. Also see Robert Leopold, “The Second Life of Ethnographic Fieldnotes,” Ateliers du LESC 32 (2008).

64 Asher and Jahnke, “Curating the Ethnographic Moment.”

65 Diana E. Marsh's NSF-funded user studies project at the National Anthropological Archives shows that in FY2016, Native community users were the second-largest researcher group. The American Philosophical Society's Center for Native American and Indigenous Research reports that community users have now surpassed traditional academic users. From 2011 to 2015, two-thirds of requests for Indigenous collections at the society came from Indigenous community members, organizations, or projects. Prior to 2011, Indigenous users were in the minority. See Diana E. Marsh, “Research-Driven Approaches to Improving Archival Discovery,” IASSIST Quarterly 43, no. 2 (2019): 5,; Marsh, “Toward Inclusive Museum Archives”; and Carpenter, “Archival Initiatives for the Indigenous Collections at the American Philosophical Society.”

66 Punzalan, “Understanding Virtual Reunification.”

67 Murkutu, Welcome to Murkutu CMS 2.1, 2017,

68 Inuvialuit Cultural Resource Center, Inuvialuit Pitqusiit Inuuniarutait: Inuvialuit Living History,

69 Plateau Peoples' Web Portal,

70 Local Contexts,

71 Indigenous Digital Archive,

72 The Great Lakes Research Alliance for the Study of Aboriginal Arts and Cultures,

73 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Data Archive,

74 Reciprocal Research Network, “First Nations Items from the Northwest Coast,”

75 Susan Rowley et al., “Building an On-Line Research Community: The Reciprocal Research Network,” in Museums and the Web 2010: Proceedings, ed. Jennifer Trant and David Bearman (Toronto: Archives & Museum Informatics, 2010),; Kim Christen, “Opening Archives: Respectful Repatriation,” American Archivist 74, no. 1 (2011): 185–210,; and Kate Hennessy et al., “Virtual Repatriation and the Application Programming Interface: From the Smithsonian Institution's MacFarlane Collection to Inuvialuit Living History,” in Museums and the Web 2010: Proceedings, See also Haidy Geismar and William Mohns, “Social Relationships and Digital Relationships: Rethinking the Database at the Vanuatu Cultural Centre,” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 17, no. 1 (2011): S133–S155, In Australian contexts, there are also a number of useful works in this vein, including Sophie Nicholls, Lauren Booker, Kristen Thorpe, Melissa Jackson, Clement Girault, Ronald Briggs, and Caroline Jones, “From Principle to Practice: Community Consultation Regarding Access to Indigenous Language Material in Archival Records at the State Library of New South Wales,” Archives and Manuscripts, 44, no. 3 (2016): 110–23; Gabrielle Gardiner, Jemima McDonald, Alex Byrne, and Kirsten Thorpe, “Respect, Trust and Engagement: Creating An Australian Indigenous Data Archive,” Collection Building 30, no. 4 (2011): 148–52; Fiona Ross, Susan Marilyn McKemmish, and Shannon Faulkhead, “Indigenous Knowledge and the Archives: Designing Trusted Archival Systems for Koorie Communities,” Archives & Manuscripts 34, no. 2 (2006): 112–51; Kirsten Thorpe, K. Monica Galassi, and Rachel Franks, “Discovering Indigenous Australian Culture: Building Trusted Engagement in Online Environments,” Journal of Web Librarianship 10, no. 4 (2016): 343–63.

76 Haidy Geismar, “Defining the Digital,” Museum Anthropology Review 7, nos. 1–2 (2013).

77 Geismar, “Defining the Digital,” 256. Also see Elizabeth A. Povinelli, “The Woman on the Other Side of the Wall: Archiving the Otherwise in Postcolonial Digital Archives,” differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies 22, no. 1 (2011): 146–71,

78 Robin Boast, “Neocolonial Collaboration: Museum as Contact Zone Revisited,” Museum Anthropology 34, no. 1 (2011): 66. Also see Anthony Alan Shelton, “Museums in an Age of Cultural Hybridity,” Folk 43 (2001): 221–49; Dipesh Chakrabarty, “Postcoloniality and the Artifice of History: Who Speaks for the ‘Indian’ Pasts?,” Representations 37, no. 1 (1992): 1–26.

79 Mary Louise Pratt, Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation (New York: Routledge, 1992); James Clifford, Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997).

80 Boast, “Neocolonial Collaboration,” 67. Also see Ruth Bliss Phillips, “Re-Placing Objects: Historical Practices for the Second Museum Age,” Canadian Historical Review 86, no. 1 (2005); Amy Lonetree, Decolonizing Museums: Representing Native America in National and Tribal Museums (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2012); Nancy M. Mithlo, “ ‘Red Man's Burden’: The Politics of Inclusion in Museum Settings,” American Indian Quarterly 28, nos. 3–4 (2004).

81 Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples (London: Zed Books, 1999).

82 Anthony Shelton, “Critical Museology: A Manifesto,” Museum Worlds 1, no. 1 (2013),; Michael Ames, Cannibal Tours and Glass Boxes: The Anthropology of Museums (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1992).

83 Jim Enote, “Museum Collaboration Manifesto,” A:Shiwi A:Wan Museum and Heritage Center,

84 “Amidolanne Database,” A:Shiwi A:Wan Museum and Heritage Center,

85 “The Mulka Project,” Buku Art Center,

87 Dora Dallwitz, John Dallwitz, and Susan Lowish, “Ara Irititja and Ara Winki in the APY Lands: Connecting Archives to Communities through Mobile Apps on Portable Devices,” Archives and Manuscripts (2019): 1–18.

88 “Statement from Cultural Internal Review Board of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians” (January 18, 2012), The Center for Native Health,

89 Kaplan, “Many Paths to Partial Truths,” 219.

90 Our full prompt for participants to the workshop can be found at

91 See “Welcome to CoPAR!,” CoPAR,

93 See “Guide to Anthropological Fieldnotes and Manuscripts in Archival Repositories,” CoPAR,

94 Although we are using it with slightly different connotations, this portmanteau word has been used as shorthand to refer to the “gravitational” pulls of the massive cloud and data platforms deployed by the largest web companies. See Lorcan Dempsey, “The Sound of Words: Amazoogle and Googlezon,” Lorcan Dempsey's Weblog (blog) (January 2005) at

95 As examples, see Local Contexts,; “Inuvialuit Living History,” Making Culture Lab,; and “Recovering Voices,” Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, In the literature, see for instance, Christen, “Opening Archives”; “Ara Irititja: Protecting the Past, Accessing the Future—Indigenous Memories in a Digital Age,” Museum Anthropology 29, no. 1 (2006): 56–60,; Kate Hennessy et al., “The Inuvialuit Living History Project: Digital Return as the Forging of Relationships between Institutions, People, and Data,” Museum Anthropology Review 7, nos. 1–2 (2013); Susan Rowley, “The Reciprocal Research Network: The Development Process,” Museum Anthropology Review 7, nos. 1–2 (2013); Geismar and Mohns, “Social relationships and digital relationships”; Martin Nakata, “Indigenous Knowledge and the Cultural Interface: Underlying Issues at the Intersection of Knowledge and Information Systems,” IFLA Journal 28, nos. 5–6 (2002): 281–91,; Martin Nakata, Duane Hamacher, John Warren, Alex Byrne, Maurice Pagnucco, Ross Harley, Srikumar Venugopal, Kirsten Thorpe, Richard Neville, and Reuben Bolt, “Using Modern Technologies to Capture and Share Indigenous Astronomical Knowledge,” Australian Academic & Research Libraries 45, no. 2 (2014): 101–10,

96 Elizabeth Yakel and Deborah Torres, “AI: Archival Intelligence and User Expertise,” American Archivist 66, no. 1 (2003): 51–78,

97 Marsh, “Toward Inclusive Museum Archives,” 132.

98 Carpenter, “Archival Initiatives for the Indigenous Collections at the American Philosophical Society.”

99 See “Digital Data Management for a New Generation,” American Anthropological Association,

100 “Access Policies for Native American Materials—Case Studies,” Society of American Archivists,

101 Neil Beagrie, “Digital Curation for Science, Digital Libraries, and Individuals,” International Journal of Digital Curation 1, no. 1 (2008): 5,