About us

triptych with library shelves in the centre and an audio reel at either end

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.

Our information leaflet (PDF format) is available to download in English, French, Simplified Chinese, Bahasa Indonesian, Tok Pisin, Japanese and Bislama.

PARADISEC’s locations

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

"PARADISEC team over time" graphic


“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)

If only you witnessed and captured the reaction in me going through the recordings at home! It is quite an amazing experience! From feeling of awe to emotion to deep excitement! The feeling of knowing that your language has been documented or recorded in a structured way, kept safely somewhere in the world, hearing it spoken 50 – 60 years ago and by some people you haven’t seen but whose names you only hear in history etc is quite incredible. It is most heartwarming to know that it is possible to sustain the life of my language. Thank you once again for the opportunity to listen to the records! (E’ava Geita 23/3/2015, finding the Koita language materials in TD1-P019)

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, “Recordings of Jinghpaw folktales”)

I have appreciated being able to use items in the Paradisec collection to explore change in real time in the language I work on in Vanuatu. And from the ease of my own study! (Miriam Meyerhoff)

The Lau corpus has been the basis of two honours theses one of which has resulted in additional, improved annotations of the data. So in this sense the Lau corpus demonstrates the usefulness of the primary data for academic training and research and the feeding back to the research into the quality of the archived corpus. (Anna Margetts)

As owner of one of the collections at PARADISEC, we have watched some of the movies recorded in there with people, and I facilitated the access as I now live in those same communities.

I have not lost any recordings and I still have the originals backed up on a hard drive of mine that gets changed every couple years.

The HD is also available to the communities I work with since they are useful for the job I do now with them.

I am planning to share those resources more in the future, and I am also managing in case of death for which some of those recordings (video) will need to be closed for at least a year.
(Claudia Cialone)

Hardly a major collection but I did contribute one item – Ian Campbell – Tubusereia, PNG near Moresby Dec 1969 – Dance and Church Music – inc photos.

Doubt any use made for research but the value is – ‘it is there’. However, when the digitising of the tape was done, I sent a digital copy to a member of the extended family in Tubusereia with whom I had stayed in Dec 1969. He would have been relatively young at the time the tape was made but alas, I believe has since died and I have no knowledge of whether that digital version made by PARADISEC survives to this day.

Keep up the great work.
(Ian Campbell)

For what it’s worth: most of the Äiwoo audio material from Stephen Wurm’s collection was recorded by Martin Moiâ in the 1970s and 80s, and in 2012 I was able to get CDs from PARADISEC to bring these recordings to Moiâ’s children in the Reefs (the man himself having died in the meantime). I don’t know what’s happened to them since, but I do have a very moving story about how I played a couple of the recordings to Moiâ’s elderly father, who thanked me for the opportunity to hear his late son’s voice again.
(Åshild Næss)

I have indeed benefited from having my items archived in the PARADISEC collection. Archival in PARADISEC has allowed for collaboration with researchers at other universities (including University of Hawaii, Stanford, and Harvard) and has benefited my citation practices, now that I have a stable link to use in my references and the ability to upload annotations to PARADISEC to support my analyses. This archive is also the main way that members of the Pahoturi River community can access the collection. I also appreciate how it shows up in multiple search engines on underdocumented language materials. (Kate Lindsay)

Some items in my collection have been directly given to one of my consultants, who is the spiritual leader in the village. He told me he would exhibit one copy in the local museum and another copy would be kept with him to be broadcast or played to the public when he gives speeches around different Bulang villages.

It is difficult for the people I recorded to access the items through PARADISEC website because they don’t understand English.

At present, my recordings haven’t been used in any novel research. But I hope they can in the future, such as plant research or music research, and I really hope to find a botanist or a musician to cooperate. Up to now, I haven’t encountered any data breakdown. I have three backup copies in different locations, my personal hard disc and Clouds, and PARADISEC website, respectively. Everything goes very well.
(Wei HAN 韩蔚)

I do not know of anything specific of the type you propose that has come from my Unua deposits. However, I must say that I myself made use of the Joyce Trudinger material in the Arthur Capell collection as part of my Unua research.
(Elizabeth Pearce)

Although it is still very difficult for the people of Matukar to visit PARADISEC due to difficulties and the expense of accessing the internet, people there are very reassured that they could access it. More important for them is that future generations will be able to watch videos and read transcriptions and translations of the data.
I have also found PARADISEC great for working with various RAs and students. While sometimes it is possible to share video files through the cloud, it is very convenient to be able to link to a video in class. Further, it is very important that we can link to online, open access data in research papers.
(Danielle Barth)

Tout d’abord je voudrais vous remercier pour cette aide, et également pour la qualité de vos cours la semaine dernière.
En vous souhaitant bon courage et bonne continuation dans vos projets utiles aux passionnés des langues et de l’archivage pour les générations futures.

(Malia S.Drouet, Walis Language Academy)

Yap State Archives is grateful, and fully value the assistance that PARADISEC has provided us. The conservation and preservation of the audio reels that document the island’s traditional songs, stories and folkways would not have been accomplished without their support. Yap State’s cultural heritage is fundamental to their identity, and the funding provided by PARADISEC will help to ensure that cultural identity is preserved, and access to data is available for the future generation.

The materials, recorded using older format, cannot be played back since we don’t have the available equipment; and there is the great risk of losing the information. The Archives, with limited resources, doesn’t have the means and the expertise to do the cleaning and digitization of the materials. The Office is truly thankful to have benefited from the organization.
(Teresa Perez, Archivist, Yap)

In 2019 my LB2 collection (Maggio sung popular theatre from the Garfagnana region) was shared via the PARADISEC data loader copying data and metadata to USB sticks and external hard drives with individuals involved in my original research as well as with the Museo Italiano dell’Immaginario Folklorico in Piazza al Serchio (Lucca province, Tuscany, Italy). Since then recordings have been used in the local Elementary school as well as by visitors to the museum, where resources are currently being edited for revitalisation efforts including a “Scuola del Maggio” aiming to engage younger generations as performers. A bilingual display about Maggio, using some photos from the LB2 collection is prominently displayed in the Museum. In July 2022 the first full length Maggio to be performed since 2016 was mounted by the Museum, and a new performance is planned for summer 2023.
(Linda Barwick)

Our items in PARADISEC have resulted in significant access by the indigenous Kachin community (in Myanmar). In particular, the animated stories we created based on the archived materials, in collaboration with the local partners, have been widely viewed and appreciated by the local community. Most of the viewers are younger people between 18 and 34 years old, those who are worried about losing their oral tradition. I have also heard that local non-governmental educational institutions are using our items in  PARADISEC for teaching and research on the indigenous language and culture of northern Myanmar. (Keita Kurabe) See also the article about this here: Kurabe, Keita and Lu Awng. 2022. Kachin orature project: Documentation, archiving, and revitalization of oral heritage in northern Myanmar. In Sandman, Sarah, Shannon Bischoff, and Jens Clegg. (Eds) Voices: Perspectives from the International Year of Indigenous Languages. Language Documentation & Conservation Special Publication no. 27. [PP 75-93] Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press https://hdl.handle.net/10125/74697

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