Penny Carnaby on the Delete Generation

I’m glad I put off picking up a bed for our new flat, so that I could get to Penny Carnaby, New Zealand’s National Librarian and Chief Executive’s talk titled The Delete Generation: citizen created content, digital equity and the preservation of community memory.

Carnaby’s talk was engaging, accessible and a good primer on New Zealand’s digital preservation strategy.A   I loved the language that she used: digital darkages, digital landfill, digital amnesia, digital archeologists.A   She talked about Kete, which is the name of an open source digital archive platform and a bunch of local communitiy archives that are hosted on this platform.A   It is also a woven Maori basket, and Carnaby called ketes “baskets of knowledge”A   I love this metaphor.

a kete (photo from

She described how New Zealand is a world leader with the National Digital Heritage Archive.A   She described how the National Library developed a public/private partnership with Sun Microsystems, Ex Libris and how the $24 million project came in under budget and on time.A   I’m curious as to why they did not decide to use this money to seed another large open source project, like Koha, Kete, and Greenstone.A   Perhaps over the next while I’ll learn why.

The National Library of New Zealand is doing lots of cool things.A   They have a metadata harvester that can scrape metadata from the ketes, instituional repositories, and other places, so that it’s possible to search in one place and find pointers to digital objects (photos, sound recordings, text), as well as academic reserach that exist in other information silos.A   Carnaby strongly asserted that publically funded reserach must be publically accessible.A   She said that soon data sets will also be included in this.

Carnaby used the phrase “citizen created content” numerous times in her talk.A   For me, this assumes that all individuals are starting on a level playing field and that at least 3 sets of prerequisites have been met.A   First, this assumes that all individuals have access to computers, (high speed) internet, and other equipment (scanners, digital cameras, video cameras, sound and video editing software).A   Second, this assumes that everyone has the skills (or access to someone who can help them) to create thier own content.A   Finally, this assumes that people think that their stories are of value and worth telling, recording, documenting or submitting.

I asked “How do we ensure that the most margnizalizes citizen’s voices are heard and preserved?” and “How do we structure these information systems to be tools for social change?” Carnaby talked about the ketes.A   Joann Ransom, from Horowhenua Library Trust the organization that developed Kete, and was in the audience shared that many people would find it too intimidating to submit their content to a national archive, but were more comfortable submitting to the local kete, which could be ingested by the metadata harvester and made accessible at a national level. In helping to create the I realized that it was a time consuming process to source content.A   It took many conversations with people to first convince them that their stories and contributions were valuable, and then to flesh out their stories or help them with the technology.

The National Library is moving to a new physical space.A   Carnaby has a vision for a kinetic art structure in the lobby that can also serve as a place for people who want to “make a pilgrimage to submit their content” to be part the nation’s historical memory.A   I really like this idea, as it uses the public space of the lobby of the National Library as a place where people can physically go to make a digital contribution, or witness other people doing this.A   I like the metaphor of an artistic manifestation of a nation’s living history or a living digital archive.

I’m excited about Carnaby’s vision for the New Zealand’s National Library.A   I really hope I can find a job there.

Aotearoa Peoples Network

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