Tag Archives: volunteer

DigiVol Warlpiri

Crowdsourcing language texts with DigiVol

This is an invited post written for the Atlas of Living Australia’s blog and shared here with permission.

The Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages recently connected with the Atlas of Living Australia, and discussed how we might be able to share some of the information in our collection with the Atlas. The Living Archive is a digital archive of endangered literature in Indigenous languages of the Northern Territory, available at http://laal.cdu.edu.au. It currently contains over 3500 items in 50 Indigenous languages, all available under a Creative Commons license.

All the materials in the Living Archive collection have been digitised and saved as PDFs, and have undergone optical character recognition (OCR) to create a separate text file. This OCR process is often challenging, with the software not always coping well with some materials, such as pages that were handwritten, faded, of poor quality printing, or with text overlapping with images. It also had difficulty handling special characters used in Australian Indigenous languages, such as ŋ, ḏ and ä. 

In most cases we manually edited the OCRed text, but there were several items that were just too hard. So we were delighted to hear about the Australian Museum’s crowdsourcing website DigiVol. The staff at the Australian Museum have been incredibly helpful at assisting us in setting up our institution and first expeditions, and assuring us that their volunteers would be interested in our materials, despite the texts not being related to natural history.

We’ve set up a range of expeditions in a few different Indigenous languages, with materials including scientific information in Yolngu languages, an eyewitness story of a massacre in Gurindji, a book about what animals are good to eat in Pintupi, stories written by children about monsters in Tiwi, and lots of literacy primers used for teaching Indigenous children to read and write in their first language, in Anindilyakwa, Warlpiri and Gurindji.

 DigiVol Warlpiri     LAAL Warlpiri book

An example of an expedition on DigiVol and the associated result in the Living Archive collection

Feedback from volunteers has been positive, with some appreciating a change from working on natural history materials. I’m starting to get to know the “regulars” as I share information about the expeditions with them, and I’m amazed by their diligence, commitment and eye for detail. Some volunteers share stories of their own connection with Indigenous languages, with one volunteer who had previously worked in an Indigenous community thanking us for the “opportunity to repay the debt that I owe Aboriginal people for the extraordinary experiences that they brought into my life.”

Thanks to the Australian Museum and the Atlas of Living Australia for this wonderful service. The DigiVol volunteers have been a wonderful asset to our project, and we look forward to creating new and interesting expeditions to work on. We’ve also shared with others working on Indigenous languages who are keen to take advantage of such an opportunity, so you might even see more language expeditions coming up.

You can register to be a volunteer and engage with stories from the Living Archive or a wide range of other expeditions of natural and local history through DigiVol.

Cathy Bow
Project Manager
Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages

See the original post at https://www.ala.org.au/blogs-news/living-archive-of-aboriginal-languages/

Volunteering with the Living Archive

This month, we’ve had Sue Weekes from Canberra volunteering with the Living Archive project team. Here’s what she says about her experience.

The Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages welcomes interns and volunteers willing to assist with retaining a special collection of the Northern Territory, produced by local people. I recently completed a month long program which was my attempt in helping to provide access to this unusual and unique collection.

The Living Archive has a number of hard copy texts that have been donated to the project for digitisation. In my volunteer role I checked the titles on Trove so the team could decide who to give their copies to. There are copies spread throughout the NT in the CDU library, the NT Library, and Batchelor Institute, and in Canberra in the (the NLA) and AIATSIS. The project team will talk to the NT Library about adding these hard copies to their special collection.

In my other activities, I worked on preparing digitised materials for uploading to eSpace, the CDU digital repository which stores all the digital artefacts in the Living Archive. There were a few collections of books from Papunya and Barunga that had been digitised but needed to be prepared as PDFs and text files with cover images. I also worked on text correction of the text files generated by OCR and compared them to the PDF files – and gave me the opportunity to read and learn some Kriol language which is used in a number of Aboriginal communities across the NT. I also helped prepare for the repatriation of digital files to the communities of origin by creating a list of file numbers and sizes.

The Living Archive is located in the Northern Institute at the Charles Darwin University. I can recommend July as a lovely time of year to visit Darwin, and a chance to escape the cold weather down south. The campus is on the north side of town, but easily accessible, and has a number of activities that a volunteer can attend, such as talks and seminars. There are also other cultural institutions in Darwin that are well worth a visit.

I really enjoyed my time here getting to know Cathy Bow the Project Manager for the Living Archive who was always helpful and instructive, staff of the Northern Institute who were very welcoming and inclusive, and participating in some of their events, in particular the activities held here for NAIDOC week.

Other interns or volunteers could further assist in the Living Archive program, either by working in house or online anywhere in Australia, so that these endangered texts can be edited and uploaded to the Living Archive. Performing this work will ensure access for readers, researchers, and reach other interested audiences Australia-wide.