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  • Recontextualizing Digital Objects

    zuniThis proposal, a collaboration between the Ashiwi Awan Museum and Heritage Center (AAMHC), , representing the Zuni Community of the Zuni tribe, New Mexico – USA, Dr. Ramesh Srinivasan, an expert in cultural and ethnographic approaches toward the creation and design of information systems, and the University of Cambridge’s Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology (via Assistant Director/World Curator: Dr. Robin Boast), is to begin to analyze and articulate the differences between ad-hoc external standards versus localized culturally contextualized articulations of knowledge. Srinivasan and Cambridge will collaborate with the AAMHC. The collaboration will be related to the the historical objects excavated from the proto-historic village of Kechiba:wa and present in the Cambridge Museum.

    The proposed project contributes to a long-standing debate and intellectual inquiry into the nature of cultural knowledge, how it is produced, represented, and circulated. It extends significant work conducted in standards development, digital libraries/museums, and social studies of science, particularly focused on ontologies and classifications that are culturally and discursively diverse (Srinivasan and Huang, 2005; Boast, Bravo, and Srinivasan, 2006; Bowker and Star, 1999; Turnbull, 1991 and 2003; Latour, 1987 and 1986).

    The goals of this research therefore involve:

    1. Uncovering fundamental differences and common ground between the knowledge representations of a digital cultural object between local, indigenous communities and Cambridge’s Catalog,, therefore between different knowledge communities.
    2. Articulate the impact digital objects and their re-circulation have on members of the Zuni community. These impacts will be understood and described via a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods that include administered surveys, field notes, participant observation, and interviews.
    3. Develop a mechanism by which digital collections can reflect the contextual authenticity and biographical diversity of the object.
    4. Describe an approach that public institutions can take toward maintaining more proactive relationships with constituent and diverse publics, as well as present digital collections to the general public that recognize and respect the histories and important insights and contextualizations that are specific to local communities.


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