The Indigenous Digital Art Archive (IDAA) is a project in its early formations and developed by the Initiative for Indigenous Futures (IIF) to organize, care for, and make accessible the records of Indigenous digital artists.
IDAA is a living archive comprised of a unique collection of digital and physical records available to students, researchers, Indigenous communities, and the general public. IDAA is a response to both the need for Indigenous-led archives and the need to develop practices to conserve digital art’s interactive behaviours in a rapidly changing technological world. Combined, IDAA is an exercise in identifying and formulating Indigenous archival practices to address artworks made in complex digital environments.
IIF is developing an online database to make archival holdings available for public consultation. This project is ongoing with plans to launch the database by 2020.
The formation of the archive first began in 2017 when Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace mounted their first-ever retrospective exhibition of over twenty years of research-creation and production. Preparation for the exhibition included compiling archival documents and re-activating early ‘net artworks to present in the exhibition; this work formed the basis of the Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace fonds and the starting point for our larger project: the Indigenous Digital Art Archive.
Shared concerns among IIF partners about the lack of Indigenous digital art in archives began much earlier, in the early 2000s. Early digital artwork by Indigenous artists was not being archived, and few people were only beginning to seriously grapple with how to preserve digital media. The need to care for and make accessible the digital work of Indigenous artists was and remains to be paramount to establishing an Indigenous Digital Art History and ensuring that these works can be experienced, and their social contexts understood, by future generations.
Knowing this, the IIDAA was sketched into early visions for the IIF partnership, and today is becoming a reality. Under the organization of Sara Nicole England (MA, Art History, Concordia University, 2018) and Mikhel Proulx (PhD Candidate, Art History, Concordia University), the IDAA has held and participated in a variety of archive-related activities to gather voices within digital preservation, archives and libraries services, and Indigenous art history.