How to Find an Archive

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Endangered languages documentation is irreplaceable. Besides digitizing work in accordance with best practices, linguists will eventually want to consider donating your materials to an established archive with professional staff. This page lists some archives that accept linguistic documentation, as well a course of action to follow should a suitable archive be available and a course of action to follow should no suitable archive be available.


Archives that accept endangered language documentation:

More at the OLAC archives listing

If there is a suitable archive

Go to their website and/or write to their contact person, and follow their guidelines for:

If there is no suitable archive

While the creation of an archive is a heady undertaking, indeed, some individuals and institutions possess the means to create one. If interested, follow these steps, referring to the archive checklist for additional information, including links to readings, examples, and tools.

  1. Ask for advice from the OLAC archive advisors or someone at an archive that follows the recommendations of best practices.
  2. Choose a standardized metadata schema and create metadata for each item. Some metadata systems are very extensive, others are quite simple. The two which are best suited for linguistic material are the IMDI scheme and the simpler OLAC scheme. Whichever you use, you must minimally include the following:
    • the language: identify the variety as narrowly as possible and/or use the corresponding Ethnologue code;
    • the creators: list the full name of everyone who had a major role in the creation of the resource and identify the nature of that role;
    • the date and place in which the item was created;
    • intellectual property rights and access restrictions;
    • the intellectual content: provide both a keyword and a brief prose description;
    • the resource: identify the equipment, software, and methods used to create the resource; give a brief description of the recording conditions; and rate the overall quality on a scale of 1 (best) to 5 (worst). (1 applies only to recordings made in sound studios.)
    More on the OLAC scheme

    IMDI Homepage

    Ethnologue Homepage

  3. When you set up your archive, choose a system that
    • runs on your platform
    • supports your metadata
    This may be a database, such as Access or Shoebox, used to keep track of items as they are created, consultant information, etc. You can easily create records that include fields for your metadata using any common database application. This will not only make the task of archiving your materials easier, it will also help you keep track of what you've done and where your materials are.
  4. Define a policy concerning intellectual property rights and develop a consistent practice for obtaining consent (forms, recorded statements). The best sources for information on developing this policy will be other researchers who have worked in your region or language community and are familiar with the customs and mores of the area, and your native speaker consultants.
  5. Follow best practice recommendations for creation and conversion of resources to ensure that the materials you produce are of archival quality.
  6. Be sure to record information about the equipment, software, and methods you use to create materials and some description of the conditions under which recordings are made.
  7. Convince your research community to establish a proper archive to serve your linguistic or geographic area.
More on establishing an archive

The content of this page was developed following the recommendations of the E-MELD working group on Archiving.

User Contributed Notes
E-MELD School of Best Practice: Finding an Archive
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