Grant funds expansion of indigenous digital archiving

By Nella Letizia, WSU Libraries

PULLMAN, Wash. – Representatives from indigenous archives across the country are at Washington State University through Thursday for planning and training on a free, open-source platform to help tribal communities share their digital cultural heritage.

Visiting Mukurtu project partners with WSU faculty and staff Wednesday.

New federal funding for the platform, Mukurtu CMS (, will pay for updates and expansion to regional hubs in Hawaii, Alaska, Oregon, Wisconsin and Connecticut. The hubs will in turn provide support and training to tribal archives, libraries and museums in their areas.

“Mukurtu fills a need internationally because it is the only program of its kind that allows communities to fully control the circulation and sharing of their cultural heritage,” said Trevor Bond, co-director of the WSU Center for Digital Scholarship and Curation (CDSC) and WSU Libraries’ associate dean for digital initiatives and special collections. “This major grant will allow our team to further improve the functionality of the Mukurtu software.”

The three-year, $642,000 National Leadership Grant is from the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

Ethical archiving, access recognize cultural preferences

“Our online Mukurtu community engagement program has over 500 members with more than 200 installations, demos and test sites of Mukurtu CMS (content management system),” said Kim Christen, CDSC co-director, Mukurtu project director and professor in the WSU digital technology and culture program. “We have also partnered with national, regional and local non-Native institutions to use Mukurtu to return digital collections back to tribal archives, libraries and museums and increase the ethical access to their collections.”

WSU is working with the University of Hawaii’s Department of Linguistics, the Alaska Native Language Archives, the University of Oregon Libraries, the University of Wisconsin’s School of Library and Information Studies in Madison, Wisconsin Library Services, Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library and Yale Indian Papers Project teams to create the Mukurtu hubs.

Each of these partners will then work closely with tribal archives, libraries and museums to identify their specific technical needs and curation preferences, as well as connecting them to training through WSU.

“The partnership we undertake can become a model for similar scholarly editing and digital humanities projects and a significant step in moving these types of endeavors forward in an ethical manner, recognizing the diversity of cultural protocols in New England Native communities,” said Tobias Glaza, assistant executive editor of the Yale Indian Papers Project.

Tool for documenting native language

On the other side of the country, the University of Oregon Libraries and Northwest Indian Language Institute will use Mukurtu CMS to develop a digital collection of native language documentation and curriculum materials for linguistics research and language instruction at the university and by tribes. The university is partnering with the Confederated Tribes of Siletz and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs in this effort.

“Mukurtu is an exciting development in library systems, archives management practice and government-to-government relations,” said Nathan Georgitis, digital collections librarian at the Digital Scholarship Center at UO Libraries. “It allows for collaborative management and use of cultural collections in keeping with cultural protocols for access and use – something that has been missing from the information technology landscape until now.

“The Mukurtu CMS, and the principles of collaboration and cultural sensitivity on which it’s based, present an opportunity for us as librarians and archivists to improve our professional practices in ways that serve all cultural communities,” he said.

“The histories and heritage of American Indian nations are priceless,” said Omar Poler, outreach specialist for University of Wisconsin’s School of Library and Information Studies in Madison. “By serving as a midwestern Mukurtu training hub, Wisconsin Library Services and UW-Madison will be honored to support tribes as they document their communities as they see fit.”

Read earlier articles about Mukurtu CMS at and


News media contacts:
Kim Christen, WSU Mukurtu project director, 509-335-4177,
Trevor Bond, WSU Center for Digital Scholarship and Curation, 509-335-6693,
Nella Letizia, WSU Libraries’ communications, 509-335-6744,