Humanities at Large

Faculty Fellow Cara Krmpotich Awarded $200,000 to Build Mobile Community Research Kits

Submitted by Sonja Johnston on April 23 2021.

Cara Krmpotich, a 2020-2021 Chancellor Jackman Faculty Research Fellow, has received $200,000 from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation and Ontario Research Fund to build 20 “Mobile Community Research Kits” – self-contained backpacks that enable digital cultural heritage work to happen in communities, by communities, for communities. Krmpotich applied for the funding in her role as co-director of GRASAC, the Great Lakes Research Alliance for the Study of Aboriginal Arts and Cultures – a research collective comprised of individuals and organizations who learn with and from Indigenous material heritage, and who are committed to cultural recovery and recuperation in the Great Lakes.

GRASAC members ​and research assistants participate in a Saturday Data-a-thons. The photo was taken by Cara Krmpotich.

The kits will contain rugged laptops, cameras, audio recorders, portable scanners, mesh networking equipment, and virtual reality devices. The laptops will also be able to connect to the Internet, whether in the bush or at a cultural centre. Members of the Great Lakes Research Alliance will be able to borrow any number of the Backpacks to support community-based digital heritage work. Research assistants are creating guides for how to use the equipment, and will maintain and update the equipment.

“We saw a need for the kits before the pandemic—to support creative, digital work in communities by artists, historians, language warriors, environmental stewards. Universities can’t be the only places where research and digital tools are located. Covid-19 has only emphasized how important community-led and community-based projects are, and we are excited to be able to support independent, land-based, community work.” Cara Krmpotich, GRASAC Co-Director & JHI Faculty Fellow

Krmpotich observes that Research Alliance members were already getting creative with digital tools, whether to document collections and their own art work, provide remote access to ancestral belongings during the pandemic, or create opportunities for intergenerational knowledge sharing. Since its founding in 2005, GRASAC has been attentive to the ways knowledge practices, emergent technologies and Indigenous data sovereignty coalesce. The kits extend these interests, and add tools that support the creation of new cultural belongings as readily as they document older belongings.

GRASAC researchers have frequently been part of the Fellows’ circle at the JHI, including co-founder John Borrows who was a Distinguished Visiting Faculty Fellow in xxxxxxxx, member Sherry Farrell-Racette who was JHI’s inaugural Distinguished Indigenous Fellow in xxxxxxxxxx, and co-founder and co-director Heidi Bohaker, a JHI Fellow in 2015-16.