Gather – a new space for Aboriginal communities to connect with their cultural heritage

Gather - Connecting Aboriginal communities with collections and stories from the State Library of NSW

In an Australian first, the State Library of NSW has launched a new digital space for Aboriginal communities to connect with their histories and cultures which are held in the collections at the Library.

The innovative website is called Gather and is built using the technical foundations developed by Mukurtu (pronounced MOOK-oo-too), a free, open-source platform built with First Nations communities across the world to manage and share digital cultural heritage. This grassroots project aims to empower communities to manage, share and exchange their digital heritage in culturally relevant and ethically-minded ways. Mukurtu is committed to maintaining an open, community-driven approach to its continued development. Mukurtu was developed by Washington State University in consultation with First Nations communities in Australia, the United States, Canada and other countries.

According to State Librarian John Vallance: “The State Library is very pleased to be the first Australian institution to join this exciting project aimed at supporting Aboriginal communities to explore and share their cultural heritage.”

The State Library holds some of the most significant extant material relating to Aboriginal history, language, art and culture, such as language lists and vocabularies, historic photographs, missionaries’ and explorers’ diaries, as well as contemporary Aboriginal works and stories.

“For the most part, the Library’s collection represents Australia’s First People as told by the third parties – colonists, missionaries, travellers, policemen and others – who documented the lives and cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,” says Damien Webb, the State Library’s Manager of Indigenous Engagement.

“This historical information is incredibly important to Aboriginal people because it may be the only known surviving records of their community and family from the time. Gather is place where, for the first time, communities are empowered to add their stories and perspective to the record.”

One of the ways community members are being encouraged to engage with the Library’s collections is by helping to identifying people, places and stories in the photographs and other materials that can be found on Gather.

“There are hundreds of items in the Library’s collection where a large piece of the story is missing because this information simply wasn’t recorded. We invite anyone interested to get involved and welcome any new information they might be able to share,” says Mr Webb.

Gather is available online at:

Gather aims to:

  •  digitally return copies of historical documents, manuscripts and photographs to the people and communities they belong to
  •  collaborate to identify people, places and stories in historical photographs and other shared materials
  •  add local knowledge and perspectives to the State Library of NSW’s Aboriginal historical collections.


In 2015 Dr Michael Ashley from Mukurtu visited us as part of M&G NSW’s Travelling Places program.

At the Mukurtu master class held at the State Library of NSW, Ashley described how CoDA collaborates with individuals and communities around the world to provide solutions for digital heritage management, and what the future holds.

In the video below, Dr. Michael Ashley presented a talk about Mukurtu both now and in the future, at the State Library of NSW.

M&G NSW talked to Dr Michael Ashley about Mukurtu, its history, and how it might be further developed and hosted in Australia.

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