The Shared Histories Advisory Committee (SHAC) is trying to ensure the research material for its namesake project is properly preserved.
The committee recently sent a letter, signed by Principal Investigator Dr. Tyler McCreary, to the Town and the Office of the Wet’suwet’en informing them they are intending to transfer copies of the project’s research material over to them by mid-January 2020.
In doing so the committee is recommending the two organizations donate the material to a local non-profit aimed at promoting a resurgence of Witsuwit’en language and culture.
“The Shared Histories Advisory Committee recommends that your institutions, in turn, transfer, via donation agreement, the material to the Witsuwit’en Language and Cultural Society [WLCS] for preservation and researcher access purposes.”
In a discussion of the letter at their Nov. 26 meeting council did not make any motions but instead Chief Administrative Officer Alan Harris said he wanted to review some documents relating to the project to find out what the SHAC’s priorities were when they started it.
“I just want to read what … they set out [to do] at the beginning of their project because normally it lays out what the next steps are.”
The reason the committee is sending the material over to the Town and Office of the Wet’suwet’en has to do with media consent forms signed by project participants.
The forms participants signed informed them their interviews would be transferred over to the two organizations to create a database “intended to become a public resource under community control.”
Now the SHAC is recommending the two organizations hand over the material to the WLCS who have indicated they would happily take the material.
“After discussions with the Bulkley Valley Museum (BVM), the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC), and the research team, the committee believes the WLCS is the best institution for both researcher access and long-term preservation.”
The SHAC is encouraging both institutions to transfer their respective copies over to the WLCS to ensure researcher access to the material is controlled by a single set of research policies.
“The [SHAC’s] research material is an essential record of the project’s findings,” the letter states.
“However, some of the information is sensitive and needs to be properly restricted.
Proper data migration of this digital collection – i.e. transferring digital data to the newest file formats as digital storage technology changes so that the data remains accessible – is also essential.
“It is for these reasons that we recommend the material go to an organization with experience in providing research access to and the preservation of archival material. We do not wish to burden Town and OW staff with these additional responsibilities and we feel confident that the WLCS will ensure the material is responsibly accessed by researchers and properly preserved for future generations.”
The research used to put together Shared Histories: Witsuwit’en-Settler Relations in Smithers, British Columbia, 1913 – 1973 includes 3.89 gigabytes of archival material (1,617 files) and approximately 40 oral history interviews conducted with both indigenous and settler residents of the Bulkley Valley.
The project was led by McCreary, who conducted extensive historical research from April 2016 to June 2018.