What is Digital Return?

Inuvialuit Pitqusiit Inuuniarutait (Inuvialuit Living History) project has been designed to create access for Inuvialuit people and interested public wherever they live to the Smithsonian’s MacFarlane Collection. Photo credit: Smithsonian Institute

Indigenous groups across North America
are increasingly seeking to repatriate and
reclaim cultural knowledge and material
collections that were gathered from their
ancestors as part of earlier colonial
endeavors. These collections are generally
held in trust by third party institutions
(e.g. government agencies, museums,
universities), with their wholesale transfer
back to source communities considered
impractical or impossible due to logistical
complications that jeopardize continued
storage and preservation. The concept of
digital repatriation, or ‘digital return,’ has
emerged as a means of re-building
relationships between these institutions
and source communities through the
transfer of knowledge in the form of
digital data.