PARADISEC (the Pacific And Regional Archive for Digital Sources in Endangered Cultures) is a digital archive of records of some of the many small cultures and languages of the world. Our research group has developed models to ensure that the archive can provide access to interested communities, and conforms with emerging international standards for digital archiving.
We have established a framework for accessioning, cataloguing and digitising audio, text and visual material, and preserving digital copies. A primary goal is to safely preserve material that would otherwise be lost. In this way we can make field recordings available to the people and communities recorded, and to their descendants.
We have distributed copies of recordings to the Vanuatu Kaljoral Senta, the University of New Caledonia, the Institute of Papua New Guinea Studies, The University of French Polynesia, the Solomon Islands National Museum, and to Rapa Nui.
Australia lies within a region of great linguistic and cultural diversity. Over 2000 of the world’s 6000 different languages are spoken in Australia, the South Pacific Islands (including around 900 languages in New Guinea alone) and Southeast Asia. Within the next century this number is likely to drop to a few hundred. The majority of these 2000 languages and their associated cultural expressions (such as music and dance) are very poorly documented. Even in those languages that have begun to be documented many of the most developed cultural expressions (such as languages of song and ritual) have never been studied.
Australian researchers have been making unique and irreplaceable audiovisual recordings in the region since portable field recorders became available in the mid-twentieth century, yet until the establishment of PARADISEC there was no Australian repository for these invaluable research recordings.
PARADISEC is a consortium of three universities: the University of Sydney, the University of Melbourne, and the Australian National University. Operational functions are distributed across the participating campuses.
PARADISEC is directed by a Steering Committee of representatives from these three universities, with Dr Nick Thieberger as the PARADISEC Director, and Dr Amanda Harris as the Sydney Director.
At the University of Sydney PARADISEC is hosted by the Sydney Conservatorium of Music; our University of Melbourne base is in the School of Languages and Linguistics; and at the Australian National University PARADISEC is hosted by the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific.
Our distributed project operations have been made possible by the high bandwidth dedicated research and education network AARNet and the data storage facility of the Research Data Storage Infrastructure. We archive our audio data to international standards and formats for digital preservation using the Dobbin Audio Archiving system.
Sydney: Room 3019, Sydney Conservatorium of Music, C41, University of Sydney
Melbourne: Babel Building, University of Melbourne Parkville Campus
Canberra: Coombs Building, Australian National University
“Thank you so much I have just listened to the recording which was very tearful you have know idea how much this means to me and to my family, I will have to ask some elders back in PNG to listen and see if they can recognise some of the other voices on the recordings, I only wish I found this when my grandmother was still alive. Thank you again.” Jacqui Rosa, Member of PNG Community whose language is recorded with PARADISEC
“Thank you very much for kindly making time and allowing me to deposit my data into PARADISEC. I’m really glad to be able to contribute my data into the archive because I would always like to share my data with wider community, which I think is one of my responsibility as a student of a minority language. I have also gotten many positive responses about PARADISEC from native speakers who are afraid of losing their cultural heritage including traditional folktales and songs. I will let them know once the data become available for everyone.” Keita Kurabe, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, and PARADISEC Depositor (“Recordings of Jinghpaw folktales”)
PARADISEC Case Study – Sugar Cane Days
“My area of research is postcolonial Pacific Island theatre. It’s a rich and dynamic field of artistic output, but remains a relatively neglected topic of world theatre scholarship – I think, in part, because scripted drama has a relatively short history in the region compared to other world literatures, and because theatre as a medium is ephemeral, lacking the same documentary record as some other artistic genres. Consequently, this can make regional theatre history research quite challenging; although print publication is becoming much more common for local plays, I have still had to search in a number of alternative places to collate material (especially from earlier periods) for research and teaching.
It was while I was researching examples of early post-independence drama from Papua New Guinea that I came across an online reference to a sound recording held in the PARADISEC archive of Albert Toro’s 1977 radio serial, Sugar Cane Days: a historical drama about the “blackbirding” days, recounting a young Bougainvillean man’s forced indenture in the Queensland cane fields during the nineteenth century. Whereas discrete sections of Toro’s play had been published in local literary anthologies and magazines in the early 1980s, no complete script of the play was available. I was extremely excited, therefore, to locate the complete five-part audio recording of the performance taken in Port Moresby in the 1970s, as well as an interview with Toro about the inspiration for, and genesis of, the play. Nick Thieberger agreed to make these unique sound files available in a format that could be loaded on to my computer, allowing me not only to listen to the original radio play in performance, but to create a verbatim transcript from the recording. I was able to clarify certain names and details with reference to historical materials, especially Toro’s own source texts, which were identified in the accompanying interview. As well as making the script available to PARADISEC to help enhance that archive and the visibility of Pacific drama, the hard copy has been useful for my teaching in Oceanic Theatre courses both in the United States and in Australia, where the text has added relevance as a reference to Queensland’s own Pacific histories. It has also been valuable for my research into historiographic theatre in Oceania (the subject of my PhD dissertation and my current book).”
Diana Looser, University of Queensland