|by Cara Krmpotich|
This summer, GRASAC continues its work to transform our password-protected Knowledge Sharing Database (the “GKS”) into a public platform. This has included a series of focus groups with a range of people including those using the GKS for their first time to long-standing GRASAC members who have created records in the database. This helps us understand how people search for cultural belongings and information, and the kinds of online experiences that are rewarding and valuable. An intensive effort is also underway to develop multilingual names for heritage items, drawing on the existing Cayuga and Anishinaabemowin language items in the GKS. This will enable heritage items to be identified by their names in three languages (to start!) and encourage Indigenous language use. This effort is occurring in tandem with a philosophical shift in the way heritage items are described and grouped together. Our goal is for Indigenous users of the GKS to feel like they are reading about a relative when they meet a heritage item online.
We are also excited to welcome back GRASAC member Richard Laurin who is leading the web design of the new platform. A successful funding application to the Critical Digital Humanities Initiative at the University of Toronto has enabled us to hire Laurin, a museum project developer who is Métis from Drummond Island. Laurin brings experience developing digital-first and digitally-augmented projects including Iningat Ilagiit – the digitization of the Cape Dorset Archive intended to be a digital “place for family” that connects Inuit and Northern communities with the artworks, and Spirit Lines at the Manitoba Museum, winner of the 2017 Governor General’s Award for Excellence in Museums, and the 2018 International Guardians of Culture and Lifeways Outstanding Project by a Non-Native Organization award from the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries and Museums. Laurin was a GRASAC research assistant during his graduate studies and employment with the Manitoba Museum.
In addition to Laurin, the team includes graduate students and professors at University of Michigan and University of Toronto: Heidi Bohaker, Shenella Charles, Autumn Epple, Irmarie Fraticelli-Rodríguez, Cara Krmpotich, Carlie Manners, Sony Prosper, Ricky Punzalan, Yvette Ramirez, Alexandra Rayburn, Sheila Wheesk and Olivia White. Haley Bryant, Bradley Clements, Jeffery Hewitt and Chantelle Perreault have also made formative contributions to the work.
We will be seeking help to “click test” early iterations of the public platform and to test the beta version when it launches. Stay tuned!