University of Maryland

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Inverting Colonial Archival Structures: Increasing Discovery and Access for Indigenous Communities through SNAC (Indigenize SNAC) aims to find ways to improve the discovery and access of archival records for indigenous communities through the web platform Social Networks for Archival Contexts (SNAC)

Indigenize SNAC is funded by the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian program to conduct and inform this project’s work with qualitative research to fulfill our mission. SNAC is involved as a case study to assess the potential for web platforms of its kind in assisting indigenous users and potential users of archives. This work follows Indigenous Edit-a-thons and the Editorial Guide for Indigenous Entity Descriptions that came out of this work.

Research questions

1) How can aggregated discovery tools increase archival discovery for Native American and Indigenous community researchers (in culturally appropriate ways)?

2) How can colonial archives and Indigenous communities work together to design and implement new tools while centering communities in the design and implementation process?

3) What are the specific affordances of SNAC for locating collections dispersed in colonial archives across North America, and what technical infrastructures, cultural protocols, and educational initiatives are needed for this purpose?

4) How can SNAC or other archival discovery tools facilitate repatriation and stewardship for Indigenous communities?


Archives hold materials that Native and Indigenous communities need to revitalize languages, reclaim land, and restore sovereignty. These collections are difficult to locate online and may be difficult or impossible to access in person (especially, but not only due to the COVID-19 pandemic). This Project Team seeks to build new models to harness current technological capacities, generate information equality, and empower Indigenous communities with tools to return knowledge to their home communities. This project will utilize collaborative methods to undertake that challenge, and provide a pathway for the wider archival and heritage community to follow suit.


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