Supporting Palauan Groups with Technology to Safeguard ICH Using the Internet

Prince Lebuu statue and a modern rendition of the Palauan bai, a traditional structure on the grounds of Palau Community College in Koror, Palau. ⓒ Island Ark Project

In mid-January, the Island Ark Project (IAP) held a one-day workshop for Palauan organizations, NGOs, and community groups to discuss and test an ICHCAP-developed web template to safeguard intangible cultural heritage (ICH). The format of the workshop allowed IAP members Diliaur Tellei and David Eichert to provide a demonstration of the template and open discussion among the participants.

Diliaur Tellei demonstrates the ICHCAP ICH Archive template. ⓒ Island Ark Project

During the workshop participants mentioned that it is important to safeguard ICH, such as the ngasech (First Child Birth) ceremony. It was stressed that while digital means are vital, there are challenges to safeguarding ICH in the digital sphere. Among these challenges are the ability of digital platforms to allow the proper stewardship of information as culturally required (protected access, information control, and copyright), preservation of the provenance of a piece of knowledge, and the consideration that knowledge is living and not static (“to write culture is to freeze culture”). The participants also raised the issue that some changes to the web template would be important to fully make use of the opportunities presented by Internet-based ICH safeguarding. The workshop took place at Palau Community College in Koror, Palau; participants hailed from Belau National Museum, Sonsorol State, Palau Resource Institute, and Melekeok State.

David Eichert facilitates a discussion on ICH and digital preservation. ⓒ Island Ark Project

Beyond the workshop, Ms. Tellei and Mr. Eichert worked with groups and representatives across Palau. They were able to meet with additional community and government partners, undertake one-on-one consultations, and interview community members about culture and digital preservation. The workshop and these additional consultations/trainings were funded by ICHCAP. The training was based on a web template tailored to safeguarding ICH by ICHCAP, which developed and will be distributing. IAP’s members volunteered their time to make the workshop happen.

IAP, a US-based non-profit, was founded in 2015 to support people in small island states to safeguard ICH against the background of globalization, migration, and climate change. Run by volunteers from the Pacific and all over the world, IAP works in Palau and aims to broaden its engagements to other island communities around the Asia-Pacific region.