Today’s announcement of an agreement to open an engagement and digitisation facility in Alice Springs marks the first time in its almost 60-year history that the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies will extend its operations to a base outside of Canberra.
Supported with funding from the Northern Territory Government and in partnership with First Nations Media Australia, the AIATSIS Alice Springs Engagement and Digitisation Centre will have a prominent location in the Todd Mall pedestrian precinct – close to the tourist information centre, art galleries and other public attractions.
It will have around 1700 square metres for exhibitions and preservation work, providing culturally-appropriate digitisation and storage capacity along with training in archiving skills for local staff.
Speaking at today’s announcement event, the AIATSIS CEO, Craig Ritchie, said that this was a vital first step in terms both of making the AIATSIS Collection more accessible while working more closely with local communities in the preservation and exhibition of cultural heritage.
‘The development of the AIATSIS Alice Springs Engagement and Digitisation Centre represents the historic next stage for the Institute in telling our national story,’ Mr Ritchie said.
‘This is the first time that AIATSIS will offer purpose-built public exhibition and engagement areas for offering access to items held in the AIATSIS Collection. It will reach new audiences, with opportunities for encounters with the living history and cultures of Australia’s First Peoples.
‘Video displays on the facades on Todd Mall and Parson Street will present content from the AIATSIS Collection as well as content from local sources.
‘At the same time, a client services team will help provide the same access to the AIATSIS Collection, catalogue and digitised items as visitors currently enjoy in the AIATSIS reading room in Canberra.’
The provision of state-of-the-art digitisation facilities and the partnership with First Nations Media Australia will enable:
- local preservation of community-held collection materials
- culturally-appropriate physical and digital storage for collection materials, with increased opportunities for the local preservation of those materials held in trust for Indigenous communities
- training for local Indigenous staff in collection management, preservation and digitisation.
‘Such training will create opportunities for Indigenous employment at a community level and open the way to progression into the wider cultural collecting community,’ Mr Ritchie said.
‘Ongoing consultation with local community leaders will inform the activities that AIATSIS will develop with the NT Government and First Nations Media Australia.
‘Communities and individuals will have increased capability to revitalise their languages and to promote better understanding of the living cultures and heritage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.
‘But in addition, researchers from government and from national and international institutions will benefit from a more accessible national collection from which to draw.’
The new facility is expected to be operational by mid-2023.