The ethics, processes and procedures associated with the digitisation of the Pei Jones collection

Project commenced:

The late Dr Pei te Hurinui Jones (Ngāti Maniapoto), one of Māoridom’s leading scholars, amassed a significant collection of books, manuscripts and taonga during his lifetime. His son Brian Hauāuru Jones donated the vast majority to the University of Waikato and a room, He Mahi Māreikura, was established in 2004 especially to house the collection. The room’s layout is based on a whare puni and adheres to tikanga principles.

The aim of this research project is to research, collate and develop ethical processes and appropriately display the collection in a digital format that is practical and searchable by the general public. 

The team at the University of Waikato has had to address many issues around the ethics of digitisation and dealing with more than 30,000 scanned pages of written material, photos and taonga. While there are significant benefits of digitising this extraordinary collection such as sharing and preserving it, protocols are being developed for how the collection is displayed, and around issues such as access, rights, ownership and copyright. It is also important the digital format follows the same tikanga principles as the physical collection.

Currently the research team is developing digital library editing features and setting up an advisory group of key stakeholders that will provide advice on particular issues, for example, if there is a fundamental difference between displaying whakapapa in a book versus the internet. The team also includes students researching the ethics of digitising taonga.

The project’s next steps are sourcing any sound and video recordings of Pei, and setting up a series of interviews with the whānau to add to the collection. The team hope to have the digital library up and running shortly.

As part of the project, the team has set up a free, open access online macron restoration service which can automatically add the correct macrons to Māori texts. It is now being used by the Ministry of Justice for transcribing the proceedings of the Waitangi Tribunal and Māori Land Court hearings. Dr Te Taka Keegan, who supervised the macron site research, says the software is important for a number of reasons; “It is really accurate in deciding which vowels require macrons, it is really fast, it will correct the lack of macrons and the use of the antiquated double vowel, and it is a very useful tool to the Māori language community”. Click here to view

Peer reviewed journal papers
Priscilla, M. W., Whaanga, H., & Trenwick, S.A.(2012). Artefacts, biology and bias in museum collection research. Molecular Ecology, 21(13), 3103–3109.