The Birth of the Living Archive: An emerging archive of Australian Aboriginal languages and literature

Michael Christie, Brian Devlin, Catherine Bow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


In 2012 an archive of texts in Aboriginal languages came to life in
the Northern Territory of Australia attended by a host of midwives,
friends, relations and well-wishers. Its birth was much anticipated and
well received. Based upon several thousand books which were made in
Aboriginal languages between 1973 and 2000, it bears within it the
promise of addressing some persistent concerns of diverse interest groups.
The authors of this paper have backgrounds in linguistics, language
education and science and technology studies, but it is through both
longstanding and newly acquired relationship with Aboriginal language
owners that the archive takes on its unique, often surprising form.
Designed in part as academic research infrastructure, the Living Archive’s
overarching aim is the mobilisation of language work intergenerationally
and interculturally. To view its current form, visit
Here, we tell of how the Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages came
to be, and what it may grow up to do. Taking three perspectives in turn
to highlight the multidimensional potentiality of the resource that has
been created, the authors reflect on what has been achieved to date:
not to claim that the project has achieved all that it set out to, but to
make explicit the complex interplay of considerations that have to be
borne in mind as the work progresses. What has been presented is a non-
Aboriginal perspective, albeit one which has been strongly influenced
by decades of involvement with Aboriginal communities, and which
encourages dialogue and input from those authorities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-63
Number of pages16
VolumeOctober 2014
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2014


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