A new studio built by the National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA), located at the Strehlow Research Centre within the Museum of Central Australia in Alice Springs will open today to provide Traditional Owners of Central Australian Communities with digital access to the film and audio recordings contained in the unique Strehlow Collection.
The Strehlow Collection of film, audio, maps, photographs, genealogies, diaries and sacred objects, is one of the most important collections relating to Indigenous ceremonial life in the world. It contains more than 400 reels of 16mm film and over 1000 audio recordings representing more than 800 ceremonial acts and 150 hours of language, stories and songs. The collection was amassed by Professor TGH Strehlow, who spent more than four decades recording the ceremonial customs and traditions of Central Australian Aboriginal communities from 1932 through to the mid-1970s.
Film and audio recordings were deposited with the NFSA in 1990 for safe keeping and are kept in restricted environmentally controlled vaults in Canberra, to limit deterioration. The NFSA’s digitisation of these audio-visual recordings, and its subsequent building of the studio in Alice Springs, are the results of a Traditional Owner-led co-designed partnership with the NFSA and The Strehlow Research Centre to facilitate unprecedented on-Country access to the collection for Central Australian Aboriginal Communities.
As a significant part of the collection relates to 'Men's-Only' sacred and secret ceremonies. The NFSA worked closely with Senior Men to develop a set of protocols to ensure the cultural safety of the material while it was being transported, preserved and digitised at the NFSA.
The NFSA also provided training to Aboriginal Heritage Officers from the Strehlow Research Centre in audiovisual conservation, preservation, digitisation, archiving and digital access, with a commitment to creating professional skills expansion and continued opportunities.
“The Strehlow project is a demonstration of the unique intersection between First Nations knowledge and 21st century technology,” said Patrick McIntyre, the NFSA’s CEO. “Preservation and access are critical issues for Indigenous communities and archives all over the world. We’re delighted to have worked with the Traditional Owners and the Strehlow Research Centre as part of the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT), to have established protocols and pathways that will protect this collection and facilitate on Country access to it for years to come.”
“The use of technology is critical to preserve cultural practices from a variety of language groups in Central Australia, deepening our connection to Country. The Strehlow Research Centre is grateful for the invaluable support the NFSA has provided throughout this project. It is so exciting for all of the SRC Heritage team to reach this important milestone where senior men can access the material visually and work with MAGNT’s Aboriginal Heritage team in the studio to archive these recordings for future generations to access,” said Michael Liddle, Alyawerre man and Chair of the Strehlow Research Board.
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Supported through the Australian Government Indigenous Language and Arts program.