The State Library of NSW has launched an innovative online tool to visually match Indigenous place names and meanings for over 1000 locations across the state.
Muru View combines the latest in interactive technology with 100-year-old Indigenous word lists and records from the Library’s vast collection.
Indigenous Services State Library of NSW Manager, Kirsten Thorpe, says it’s important to create debate, discussion and critique amongst First Nations people.
“We want to start a conversation, and to further engage with communities around the language content. We want to see a community layer - where Indigenous people provide accuracy, pronunciation and information.”
Creative studio Sandpit helped develop the unique interactive experience, drawing on placenames found in data by the Royal Anthropological Society of Australasia between 1899 and 1903.
As words, placenames and meanings were drawn from historic sources, with some recorded by non-Aboriginal, the words and meanings may have been misinterpreted when originally recorded, and could be inaccurate.
Brewarrina historian, Brad Stedman says its complex to take material written in the late 19th century, and present it in digital forms.
“The challenge is that the words have been taken out of their language, and put into an English ‘word-list’ setting. The words are not presented as a language, but representative of a language,” he said.
“People who are engaging with the content should be encouraged to ask questions about the quality of the data, who was it written by, and what is the linguistic and historic context?”
The online interface allows users to virtually travel through the suburbs, cities and towns mentioned in the historic records and see the corresponding Indigenous names and meaning in their ‘real-life’ locations.
Muru means path in Darug. This year, Muru View is leading the path to the focus of this year’s NAIDOC Week, which focuses on the importance, resilience and richness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages.
The project seeks to increase public awareness of these historic Indigenous language archives and cultural history using cutting edge technology and beautiful design.