Cultural Preservation Initiative Wins Award

The Society of American Archivists has presented its Council Exemplary Service Award to the Sustainable Heritage Network, a project led by WSU for digital preservation of cultural heritage.

Kim Christen (left), Zuni Public Library’s Jennifer Lonjose (far right) and two community members discuss aspects of a photograph identification project in Zuni, N.M.

The SHN is managed by the Center for Digital Scholarship and Curation (CDSC) at WSU and works in partnership with the Association for Tribal Archives, Libraries and Museums to complement the work of indigenous peoples globally to preserve, share and manage cultural heritage and knowledge.

The network provides hands-on workshops, online tutorials and educational and networking resources for digital stewardship, with emphasis on ethical curation and culturally responsive methods. It is partly funded by the national Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Kim Christen, director of the Sustainable Heritage Network (SHN) and the CDSC, accepted the award at the archivist society’s annual meeting, July 26, in Portland, Ore.

“The Sustainable Heritage Network emphasizes a holistic and collaborative approach to digital stewardship, taking into account cultural, social and linguistic diversity at the core,” Christen said. “Working with Native American and First Nations librarians, archivists, museum specialists and community members, we have learned the value of creating practical, workable and culturally sustainable resources to aid in stewarding the invaluable materials that communities have in their care.

“In this way, sustainability is much larger than digitization of content,” she said. “It is about the care of community histories and belongings in ways that are most important to the stakeholders themselves.”

Since its launch in 2013, SHN has created thousands of unique resources in all aspects of digital stewardship and has hosted numerous in-person workshops in the United States and Canada at indigenous communities and tribal libraries, archives, museums and cultural centers, said Alex Merrill, SHN co-director and head of Systems and Technical Operations for WSU Libraries.

The work of the SHN and CDSC aligns with WSU’s Grand Challenges, a suite of research initiatives aimed at resolving large societal issues, including the advancement of opportunity and equity through cultural study and preservation. It furthers WSU’s Drive to 25 efforts by delivering innovative teaching and community outreach in fulfilling the university’s fundamental land-grant mission.