There are two main repositories that contain Murrinh-patha song recordings. The first is the Wadeye Aboriginal Sound Archive, which is housed in the Wadeye Knowledge Centre, a branch of the Northern Territory Library. This repository has many locally made recordings as well as copies of recordings repatriated from the second main repository, the audiovisual archive of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies.

Linda Barwick and Bernadine Kungul

Linda Barwick and Bernadine Kungul celebrate loading the one-thousandth song onto the computer in the Wadeye Knowledge Centre. Nowadays there are over 2000 songs in the database. Photo: Mark Crocombe, 2003.

These days everyone should be concerned about sound and video collections if they are kept on analogue media like cassettes, reel-to-reel tapes, VHS or Hi8 video tapes. All these recording formats are now obsolete. Our project has been helping the Wadeye Aboriginal Sound Archive to digitise and organise their collection in ways that will help to keep these priceless recordings findable and useable into the future.

The first steps are digitising analogue recordings to internationally accepted standards (e.g., for audio, as 24-bit 48khz WAVE files) and describing them using standard metadata containing information such as: original recording format, recordist, date, place, names of those recorded, description of the recording, identifying the language of the content, and a summary of the contents and any copyright or access considerations. Other information about the digital file itself, such as the date the recording was digitised and what equipment was used to do it, its format and resolution, is also needed for long-term management of the recording. We also need to make sure that there is a well managed system for regularly backing up and checking the digital collection.

We have also taken advantage of digital systems to try to make the recordings as accessible as possible within the Wadeye community. We have helped to set up a computer database using iTunes software, which now contains over 2000 locally-recorded songs of both traditional and contemporary band music. Many people in Wadeye regularly drop into the Knowledge Centre to request copies of old songs.