Hubs and Spokes

a screenshot of the author’s slide dek

As a publicly funded project, Mukurtu operates on a series of grant cycles, meaning that in order to continue existing service, the Mukurtu team must demonstrate a commitment to and understanding of institutional goals. The practical outcome of this model is a CMS that must innovate and improve its services to win further grant awards. Other pages on this website have tracked Mukurtu over its project lifespan. This page intends to look at Mukurtu as it exists today.

Mukurtu’s current iteration takes the form of the Hubs and Spokes model that it proposed in 2016 to the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). In an effort to decentralize work from Washington State University, where Dr. Christen works, the Hubs and Spokes model designates participating institutions as regional hubs. The tools, services, and support they provide to regional tribal and non-tribal archives are spokes. The participating institutions are University of Hawaii’s Department of Linguistics, the Alaska Native Language Archives, the University of Oregon Libraries, the University of Wisconsin—the Wisconsin Library Services, and Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. This WordPress cites a dispatch from a regional hub manager at the University of Wisconsin on this page.

Along with a grant awarded from NEH in 2016, this IMLS grant reflects the Mukurtu team’s commitment to user-centered improvement and operations. While the NEH grant included funding to provide mobile devices to indigenous communities, the IMLS grant includes funding and support for regional hub managers to train indigenous groups in basic to advanced digital literacy skills.

Research has suggested that given a lack of reliable broadband Internet access in places that indigenous groups live, there is a significant digital literacy skills gap. This means that, even though Mukurtu is designed to address their needs and protocols, it all comes to nothing if the end-user is unable to understand and navigate the software.

Beyond the proposed hubs and spokes model, however, there has been organic spillover regarding digital literacy training by institutions for their service populations. Voices of Amiskwaciy runs on the Mukurtu CMS, serving as a digital portal for indigenous groups in Edmonton, Canada. Significantly, the portal is hosted by the Edmonton Public Library. While previous iterations of Mukurtu were hosted by universities or cultural memory institutions such as archives and museums, Voices of Amiskwaciy represents a public library entering the digital indigenous heritage conversation.

As reliable and consistent centers for Internet access, and with a service-oriented mission (not to mention programming often explicitly includes digital literacy training), public libraries are natural partners for cultural heritage preservation. It will be interesting, then, to follow the next iteration of Mukurtu and see whether or not public libraries are included in the grant proposal.

The Hubs and Spokes grant cycle ends this year, in 2019. As grants go, there will be a white paper published that narrates the activities, outcomes, and findings of the cycle. This website may include updates to reflect new research.

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