Where Do We Need to Go From Here?



ELDP Project Highlight: Vanuatu Cultural Centre tape digitisation

Today on the ELAR blog, we are featuring ELDP grantee Nick Thieberger’s and Richard Shing’s project, ‘Vanuatu Cultural Centre tape digitisation’. This deposit is a collection of analog recordings held by the Vanuatu Kaljoral Senta, dating back to the early 1960s. The project digitised a portion of the 500+ tapes in the VKS audio archive in Port Vila.

The VKS, the national cultural agency for Vanuatu, has recordings in a number of Vanuatu’s 130 languages and has worked with the Pacific And Regional Archive for Digital Sources in Endangered Cultures (PARADISEC) to assist with digitising the collections.

Nick Thieberger, University of Melbourne and Director of PARADISEC, shares his highlights.

Nick Thieberger giving tapes and the hard disk to Ambong Thompson (Director of the Audio Archive)

“Digitising audio tapes that represent cultural heritage is intrinsically important but may not have immediately obvious benefits. One research outcome is the use of recordings made by Ellen Facey and Albert Schütz in Ngunese in the 1970s that are being used in an Honours project that links the published texts back to the primary audio and puts the resulting ELAN file into the collection.

“For each of these two collections we have also digitised the texts they contain from published sources and have had some work done on linking the text and audio (ELAN files will be stored in the collection once they are ready).

“The target of this project were tapes in a number of languages of Vanuatu, made by a range of people over the past 50 years and deposited with the Vanuatu Kaljoral Senta (VKS). We excluded any tapes from consideration if we knew that originals exist elsewhere, and we identified a number which are unknown outside the VKS.

“Very few recordings have been made for most of the 130 languages of Vanuatu, and the VKS collection includes unique records made both by local and visiting researchers. For example there are no other copies of Wolfgang Sperlich’s 28 Namakir tapes, made in the 1980s and similarly Ellen Facey’s 17 Nguna tapes are the sole analog versions of these recordings made in the 1970s.

“Other recordings came out of the remarkable fieldworker program for which Vanuatu is famous. The VKS established a network of volunteer fieldworkers throughout the country whose tasks included recording customary knowledge. Some of them also made audio recordings which are held in the VKS building and which are included in our selection of tapes, notably Chief Richard Leona, who was the Chairman of the Cultural Centre’s fieldworker program and was a notable and authoritative personality in Vanuatu society.”

Ambong Thompson (Director of the Audio Archive) and Asal Lazare (then-Director of the Vanuatu Cultural Centre) looking over the tapes returned by PARADISEC. Note that Ambong is holding the hard disk containing digitised versions of all of this collection of 100 tapes