The Western Desert digital archive
John Dallwitz explains how Ara Irititja works
Aṟa Irititja (meaning "stories from a long time ago") is a project established by the Pitjantjatjara Council in 1994, with the aim of repatriating cultural items which had been "lost" over the years to the Anangu of the Ngaanyatjarra, Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara lands in the Western Desert. These included cultural artefacts, photographs, films and sound recordings. Some had ended up in the archives of public institutions, while others had been packed away in boxes and forgotten. By 2018, Ara Irititja had tracked down hundreds of thousands of items and made them available through interactive software, keeping them safe in a digital archive. Cultural priorities have been built into the software, and Anangu can navigate the database, add information, stories and reflections, and alert administrators to specific items requiring restricted access. This enables Anangu have control over how their history and culture are presented to the world in future.