First nations in Canada are switching from audio cassettes to digital

Audio Cassette. Photo: Wikicommons

While not quite obsolete, audio cassettes are losing their appeal as long-term storage solutions of sound recordings. Many First Nations communities across British Columbia, Canada, are in possession of hundreds of cassette tapes filled with hours and hours of audio recordings of elder stories, traditional songs, and other key elements of their culture. Given this shift away from the analog technology, they are concerned that much of this knowledge may be lost if they don’t come up with strategies to transfer their contents to digital formats.

A project called Indigitization has stepped in to providing funding and training for these First Nations communities to digitize those recordings as a way to preserve them for future generations. This collaborative project between the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, the First Nations Technology Council, and three First Nations communities — Heiltsuk, Ktunaxa, and ‘Namgis — created an online toolkit with step-by-step instructions for communities interested in undertaking the digitization process.

Among the sections contained in the toolkit include digitization best practices and standards, instructions on adding metadata, as well as additional tips on digitizating photographs and maps.

This grants program makes funding available to First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities to pay for equipment, digitization technical staff, and travel to and from trainings. Five rounds of funding have been completed and a sixth call for proposals recently closed in March 2017. Examples of projects funded by the Indigitization Grant Program include funds awarded to:

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