Texas Digital Library Conference System, 2014 Texas Conference on Digital Libraries

Font Size: 
The Archive of the Indigenous Languages of Latin America
Susan S. Kung

Last modified: 2014-03-25


The Archive of the Indigenous Languages of Latin America (AILLA) is a completely digital repository at the University of Texas at Austin, LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections. AILLA has no physical presentation space; its collections are accessible only through its website (www.ailla.utexas.org) via parallel interfaces in both English and Spanish.  

AILLA's primary mission is the preservation of irreplaceable linguistic and cultural resources in and about the indigenous languages of Latin America, most of which are endangered. Most of the materials in the archive are primary field data that were collected and deposited (donated) by linguists and anthropologists for whom audio and video recordings are a central part of their research methodology. Many indigenous organizations have also donated the results of their investigations to AILLA. The majority of AILLA's collection consists of audio and video recordings of discourse in a wide range of genres, including conversations, many types of narratives, songs, political oration, traditional myths, curing ceremonies, etc. Many recordings are accompanied by transcriptions and translations of the speech event. Other textual resources include dictionaries, grammars, ethnographic sketches, fieldnotes, articles, handouts and PowerPoint presentations. The collection also contains hundreds of photographs. 

AILLA's secondary mission is to make these valuable and useful resources maximally accessible via the Internet while simultaneously protecting personally, culturally and politically sensitive materials from inappropriate use and supporting the intellectual property rights of the creators. AILLA's system of access levels allows creators and depositors to have finely-grained control over their materials, which lets them restrict their entire collections or only certain files within the collections. For example, recordings might be public while transcriptions might be restricted or vice versa. Sensitive materials are protected; however, AILLA's directors, manager and depositors believe strongly that accessibility is equally important. Historically, very little of the fruit of linguistic and anthropological research has been genuinely available to the indigenous communities in which the research was done; AILLA aims to rectify that imbalance. Restrictions tend to keep speakers out, while researchers can generally gain access to archival materials through the academic network. Resources that are publically accessible can be heard and read by all speakers. Our policy is that if a resource can be made public, it should be made public; but if it is sensitive, it should be protected. Our goal is to ensure that the unique and wonderful resources preserved at AILLA can be used to maintain, revitalize and enrich the communities from which they arise. 

AILLA was intended from the outset to function as a partner with its depositors, providing them with a means of both preserving and sharing, under appropriate terms, the fruits of their work with the indigenous peoples of Latin America. The archive accepts any legitimate resources that can be housed in a digital format.


special collection; indigenous languages; Latin America

Full Text: PDF