UBC Press and University of Washington Press to develop digital publishing platform in Indigenous studies with grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

SEATTLE, WA—The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded the University of British Columbia a three-year $509,000 grant to support a collaboration between UBC Press and the University of Washington Press for the development of a new writing and publishing infrastructure for Indigenous studies scholarship.

Melissa Pitts, director at UBC Press, said the project responds to the needs of a new generation of readers, scholars, students, and practitioners pursuing Indigenous research and cultural revitalization projects: “The new platform will serve scholars engaged in collaborative research, writing, and publishing with and within Indigenous communities. It will combine mainstream and academic frameworks, enabling respectful protocols for accessing and circulating cultural heritage in an online environment.”

“Our project is designed to provide solutions to existing barriers to full participation in the exchange of ideas and knowledge,” said Darcy Cullen, project lead and UBC Press editor. “We will create a digital hub in which Indigenous communities and scholars can work together to create, share, and preserve content and present their findings in new and useful ways.”

UBC Press and University of Washington Press will develop a digital platform for Indigenous multimedia books. Based on Scalar, an authoring and publishing platform, it will offer a suite of tools for linking data and analyses to digital content from around the world and for interacting in culturally sensitive ways with heritage materials, ranging from clothing, beadwork, weapons, and tools to songs, stories, and dances. It will include customizable methods for authoring teams to label content and inform readers about cultural protocols for access and use of specific content.

The multimedia books will incorporate, and offer seamless navigation through, textual, audio, and visual materials and will organize content in different ways for different purposes, offering navigational paths tailored for distinct audiences: scholars, community-based groups and organizations with a stake in Indigenous languages and cultural heritage, and instructors and their students.

Jill Campbell, coordinator for the Musqueam Language and Culture Department, applauded the project’s vision: “We are in full support of this respectful, digital publishing platform, which facilitates collaborative partnerships with the First Nations communities and highlights the scholarship of First Nations language, culture, and history to render it more broadly accessible. It stands to be a transformative part of the current broad-based movement towards the revitalization of the rich linguistic and cultural heritage vested in the First Nations in this region and beyond.”

Kathryn Bunn-Marcuse of the University of Washington’s Burke Museum highlighted the need for this project for the Indigenous arts: “The visual aspects of Indigenous arts are fundamentally tied to movement, song, land, and language. Digital technologies have the potential to reflect the connections between cultural belongings (artifacts) and their associated intangible rights. By harnessing these new technologies, this project will enhance the understanding and revitalization of cultural practices, while allowing for more robust forums for collaborative knowledge production.”

As the leading publishers of Indigenous studies scholarship in the Northwest, UBC Press and University of Washington Press are spearheading this initiative. It will be developed in partnership with the UBC Library, museums (UBC’s Museum of Anthropology, the Reciprocal Research Network, and UW’s Burke Museum), experts in intellectual property and cultural heritage management in a digital environment (Mukurtu, Local Contexts), First Nations communities and organizations (the Musqueam Indian Band, the Kwagiulth First Nation, and the First Nations Technology Council), platform developers and digital management specialists (the Alliance for Networking Visual Culture, which produces the authoring and publishing platform Scalar), among others.

Nicole Mitchell, director at University of Washington Press, said: “As publishers with a deep history of supporting knowledge production by and with Indigenous, First Nations, and Native American people and communities, we are grateful for the support of the Mellon Foundation to take this work forward into the digital and multimedia future.”

According to Chadwick Allen, associate vice provost for faculty advancement at University of Washington, “This innovative project is yet another indication of the leadership role the University of Washington is taking in the development of Native American and Indigenous studies—across disciplines and institutions, through the integration of new technologies with traditional sources of knowledge, and in respectful collaboration with sovereign Native nations.”


About the University of Washington Press: Established in 1920, the University of Washington Press supports the research, education, and outreach missions of the University of Washington by publishing peer-reviewed scholarship for an international community of students, scholars, and intellectually curious readers. The press is known for groundbreaking lists in critical ethnic studies; Native American and Indigenous studies; Asian American studies; Asian studies; anthropology; art history and visual culture; environmental studies; women’s, gender, and sexuality studies; and U.S. history, among other fields.

About UBC Press: UBC Press produces books integral to Canada’s cultural, political, and social fabric and is recognized for its contributions to Indigenous studies, Canadian history, political science, environmental history, law and society, gender and sexuality studies, and transnational studies, among others. Established in 1971, the press publishes sophisticated and transformative works by authors whose thought and research pushes the boundaries of scholarly discourse and makes a vital contribution to the democratic exchange of ideas.

For more information, please contact:

University of Washington Press, Beth Fuget, Advancement at 206-616-0818 or bfuget [at] uw.edu

UBC Press, Kerry Kilmartin, Publicist and Events Manager at 604-822-8244 or kilmartin [at] ubcpress.ca

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