April 13-17, 2010
Denver, Colorado, USA

Building an On-Line Research Community: The Reciprocal Research Network

Susan Rowley, University of British Columbia, Canada; Dave Schaepe, Stó:lō Research and Resource Management Centre, Canada; Leona Sparrow, Musqueam Indian Band, Canada; Andrea Sanborn, U’mista Cultural Society, Canada; Ulrike Radermacher, Ryan Wallace, Nicholas Jakobsen, Hannah Turner, Sivia Sadofsky, and Tristan Goffman, University of British Columbia, Canada


Museums face many challenges when building on-line collaborative networks to engage diverse knowledge communities. In this paper we explore the emergence of one such system, the Reciprocal Research Network (RRN), launched in March of 2010. During development, the RRN team explored and tested methods to overcome challenges commonly faced by museums undertaking similar projects. Here we discuss how the RRN is affecting research, why it is having this effect, and what course the development process followed.

The RRN creates an on-line research community, allowing geographically dispersed users to collaborate while studying cultural objects held in institutions around the world. Museums and other cultural institutions are contributing their data to the RRN in order to facilitate this research. Diverse user groups, including indigenous communities, share their own perspectives and knowledge with the people and institutions that make up the RRN community.

The Reciprocal Research Network was co-developed by three First Nations communities, the Musqueam Indian Band, the Stó:lō Nation/Tribal Council, and the U’mista Cultural Society, along with the Museum of Anthropology (MOA) at the University of British Columbia. A dozen museums also participated in the development process.

Keywords: collaboration, multi-institutional, data sharing, user submitted content, research, on-line community


Over the past decade, First Nations communities have increasingly used the Web as a forum for communicating, connecting with other communities and organizations, telling their own history and conducting research into their cultural heritage (for example: Plateau Peoples Web Portal, Dane Wajich – Dane-zaa, Stories & Songs: Dreamers and the Land, U'mista Cultural Society). Likewise, cultural institutions holding aboriginal cultural heritage have created Web sites to encourage user contributions and create networks between institutions, communities and individuals (for example: Artstor, The McCord Museum of Canadian History). Furthermore, museums and research consortiums have made it their mandate to include originating communities into their work when making collections accessible over the Web (for example: Great Lakes Research Alliance for the Study of Aboriginal Arts and Cultures (GRASAC), National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI)). There are many challenges when building on-line collaborative networks (see for example Royston, 2009) especially when trying to engage diverse knowledge communities. From conception, through technical development and practical implementation, the problems encountered can lead all project participants to find new ways to collaborate and share knowledge. The many challenges of technical development are sometimes overshadowed by the social challenges of bringing people of diverse backgrounds together and finding consensus across cultures and amongst organizations governed by a wide array of bureaucracies and legal systems.

The development of the Reciprocal Research Network (RRN) can be seen as an example of such a process; it brought together First Nations communities, international cultural institutions, and individual researchers. Our goal was to develop a new research tool for accessing information housed in geographically dispersed locales as well as providing networking functions for effective engagement and collaboration among researchers with diverse backgrounds. Most significantly, the creation of this virtual research space emerged from the desire of all participants to base the project on the principles of respect for the originating communities’ different knowledge and value systems as well as respect for the partner museums. These principles guided, and sometimes tested, the development of the RRN throughout and are reflected in the network’s design and technological features. We found the early establishment of a development sandbox, combined with agile development principles, helped to create a flexible, communicative and engaging process among the technical team, community liaisons, partners and individual researchers.

The participants were three First Nations communities, the Musqueam Indian Band, the Stó:lō Nation/Tribal Council, and the U’mista Cultural Society, along with the Museum of Anthropology (MOA) at the University of British Columbia, the Royal British Columbia Museum, the Burke Museum, the Laboratory of Archaeology at UBC, the Glenbow, the Royal Ontario Museum, the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the McCord Museum, the National Museum of Natural History, the National Museum of the American Indian, the American Museum of Natural History, the Pitt-Rivers Museum, and the Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

In a previous paper (Iverson et al., 2008), we introduced the RRN development and discussed a few of the technical challenges we encountered at the outset. Specifically, we outlined the scope of the RRN, its system architecture, the reasoning behind designing a faceted interface, and our choice of open source software and agile development. This paper provides a brief overview of the development process and introduces the network as launched in March 2010. Throughout, we outline some of the technical, bureaucratic and administrative challenges and their resolutions, give examples of new research methods made possible by the RRN, and discuss why and how the RRN provides a new way of doing research.


The Reciprocal Research Network was an integral part of the University of British Columbia Museum of Anthropology's "A Partnership of Peoples" project (from 2005 to 2010). The successful grant application stated, "Collaborative museology is founded on the belief that originating communities should have a major voice in shaping research questions and should benefit from the new knowledge produced." (MOA, 2001:3a). The project's overall goal was to reconstruct the Museum of Anthropology (MOA) as a place for diverse communities to research and celebrate their cultures by providing physical spaces for research, and by developing a virtual space for research, communication and collaboration focused on the material culture of the Northwest Coast –  a space that moved beyond the boundaries of the museum: the Reciprocal Research Network. The physical redevelopment entailed the construction of community suites and renewed visible storage areas (Ames 1992, 1999, Shelton 2007), renamed as "Multiversity Galleries. Ways of Knowing". The collections were reorganized, where possible, according to community recommendations presenting the visitor with different ways of thinking about classification systems and cultural heritage. Embedded within the galleries is the museum's new MOACAT system, providing touch screen access to MOA's collection (digitized data), as well as three RRN stations where the public can discover the RRN by accessing its home page and explore some of the partner institutions' collections.

Figure 1

Fig 1: The Multiversity Galleries. Ways of Knowing at the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia. Image shows basketry displayed according to maker, family and community. Photo by Viviene Tutlewski

The RRN was to be developed to provide a virtual space for fostering "interactive research partnerships among geographically dispersed researchers and across culturally distinct knowledge systems" (MOA, 2001:3a). The principles of collaborative museology based on respect for differing knowledge systems required a design to support the integration of First Nations cultural knowledge while maintaining the integrity of the partner museums' data. Reciprocity was also key –  the RRN needed to provide a way for people from diverse knowledge communities to share knowledge and establish meaningful relationships. In this way, the RRN represents a paradigm shift in the way research into cultural heritage is conducted, whereby community members become one of the drivers of research as well as active participants.

Throughout development, we consistently tried to incorporate the above ideas into the interface design, the written Web commentary, the home page imagery and layout etc. The "look" and "feel" of the RRN emerged in many discussions with community members, museum staff and others. From the beginning it was clear the RRN was about people and about providing a space for reconnecting people, tangible and intangible cultural heritage, language, and the land. We also strove to design a virtual space for users with a broad range of computer skills. Community members made it clear that the site had to look clean and uncluttered, be warm and inviting, and be easy to use.

Figure 2

Fig 2: Lawrence Isaac talking about the RRN with delegates at the BC Elders' Gathering in Terrace, BC, in August 2009. Photo courtesy of Hannah Turner

The Co-developers and Partner Institutions

The first challenge was to find a governance model that would:

  • be functional yet respect and harness each participating institution’s unique contributions
  • reflect the philosophy outlined in the grant application
  • not stretch partners' resources.

A simple two-tiered system consisting of a Steering Group and a Partner Assembly was selected. In a groundbreaking move, three First Nations had been named as researchers in the original grant application. Each agreed to act as a co-developer of the RRN and formed the Steering Group. The institutions contributing data became known as partners and formed the RRN Partner Assembly.

Each co-developing community named a representative to the Steering Group; this person remained accountable to their communities throughout the project. While the RRN was physically based at MOA, the Steering Group made the relevant development decisions. A Project Charter signed in 2006 gave the Steering Group the authority to formulate the technological requirements and the human resources needed for the development of the RRN. The national and international partner institutions, who had initially co-signed the CFI grant application, formally joined the development process later by signing a legally non-binding Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to cover their participation during the development process. A new legally non-binding MOU was signed at launch to cover the continuing development of the RRN over the next five years and to enable additional communities and partners to join.

The RRN Co-developers

The three First Nations co-developers are each leaders in a variety of aboriginal issues. Throughout their work, they each had built long-standing relationships with the Museum of Anthropology (MOA), the Laboratory of Archaeology (LOA) and the Department of Anthropology at UBC in collaborating on legal, historical and social issues, co-curating exhibits and developing educational programs. In the process, they questioned and surmounted established colonial relationships, resulting in a reworking and modernization of museum theory and practice. The RRN development process provided a platform for these participants to put comprehensive individual experiences into joint practice.

Throughout the development process, community involvement was further ensured through the work of community liaisons. Each organization hired two people to work with artists, elders, and others on formulating RRN requirements, trying out existing functions, and communicating via the social networking system. The liaisons consistently challenged the development process and provided invaluable input into restructuring features to allay concerns over privacy, copyright, special characters required for typing in First Nations languages, and usability expressed to them by community members. Regular meetings with the RRN implementation team, either face-to-face or electronic, were designed to ensure a continuous flow of communication. However, geographical distance did present a challenge. For example, the U'mista liaisons needed a day's travel to attend meetings in Vancouver. Their home, Alert Bay, is a small island with intermittent Internet connections, resulting in difficult working and communication conditions. Furthermore, many of the peoples they represent live in even more remote communities that have Internet but are otherwise only accessible by boat. For people living in these communities, connecting to the RRN is a way to meaningfully engage with their cultural heritage housed in institutions far away.

Figure 3

Fig 3: RRN community liaisons' meeting. From left to right: Lillian Hunt, Ulrike Radermacher, Lawrence Isaac, Wendy Ritchie (standing), Susan Rowley, David Houghton, Frank Andrew, Herb Joe jr., Jody Felix, Joanne Kienholz. Photo courtesy of David Campion

The RRN Partner Institutions

One of the most difficult challenges we faced was how to engage the partner institutions in the development process and to ensure they saw that their concerns were being addressed. Conference calls and newsletters were generally unsatisfactory. In the end we held three face-to-face workshops beginning in 2008. Representatives at the first workshop agreed that our communication efforts had been ineffective. Their impression was that we were making decisions without adequate consultation. We therefore discarded our prepared documents and everyone worked together to outline a Memorandum of Understanding to guide institutional participation. We also formed three working groups:

  • the IT Working Group recommended technical solutions to deliver the RRN, and explored options for the transfer of data from partner institutions;
  • the Research Model and Social Networking Working Group was responsible for using and reviewing collaborative research models;
  • the Cross Systems Working Group and Review Board worked on determining fields to be standardized for the RRN.

Open communication with all partners was critical to keep the administrative and technical flow of development transparent. However, the team faced the challenge of providing information to the partners without overwhelming them. While we used 37 Signals’ Basecamp to set up calendars, view files, track discussions and send notifications for events, this method was not as successful as e-mails and person-to-person phone calls. Some participants chose to communicate via the RRN social networking tools as these emerged, thereby assisting in their evaluation. Virtual communication sometimes remained inadequate, especially when discussing technological issues; there remains no substitute for face-to-face communications. The partner institution workshops held at UBC as well as visits by RRN staff to partner institutions were critical to the project.

The partner institutions included university museums, provincial museums, state museums and federal museums from three countries. Each was bound by its own administrative and legal framework with differing internal, local, national and international policies and legal requirements. Therefore, the MOUs we developed had to allow institutions to structure their own participation. Each determined the data that could be released, how it would be released, and the intellectual property guidelines to be followed. All were also concerned over issues of data integrity and copyright. The partners explored these issues and recommended changes that fundamentally altered the RRN. The Office of the UBC Legal Counsel provided advice on how to tailor the MOUs and Terms of Use to our partners' needs.

The development process presented a new path for all institutions. All had experiences in collaborative research and had co-curated exhibits, and many now have their collections on-line. However, few had worked together with this number of First Nations groups and multi-institutional partners on a project, or had entered working relationships that required on-line sharing of their digital data. The RRN raised numerous concerns regarding:

a) data that had not been updated and still existed in "old fashioned" digital formats that might not be easy to integrate;

b) data that was 'messy;' in other words, records with inaccuracies, old nomenclature, typographical errors and other issues that could be viewed as deficiencies;

c) a lack of digital images;

d) a lack of resources to deal with user submitted information;

e) a way to discern the value of user submitted information;

f) a lack of resources to link to the RRN.

Central to all partners was the concern that the integrity of their data be maintained. Some funds from the project were deployed to the institutions to work on these issues.

Political Endorsement

The RRN holds data from many First Nations communities of British Columbia and the Northwest Coast, but only three communities were directly involved in the development process. The Steering Group sought endorsement from BC’s aboriginal communities to demonstrate broad support for the project to BC First Nations and the partner institutions. The three BC First Nations umbrella organizations, the First Nations Summit, the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs and the British Columbia Assembly of First Nations, each passed resolutions in support of the RRN. These resolutions endorsed the RRN "as a research tool to assist First Nations and museums to develop relationships and to access and share cultural information"; they also encouraged "...museums to provide the RRN with data culturally and historically significant to the First Nations of British Columbia" (UBCIC Resolution 2009-14). The RRN is one of the first research projects to seek the support of these organizations.

The Development:  Software and Social Networking


The RRN software was developed over nearly three years. The RRN Steering Group consulted experts on project management, collection management systems, software development strategies, and Web design before hiring two software developers and a support team. Despite interest by numerous outside parties, the Steering Group decided to hire in-house developers. This let users participate in the design process and allowed us to discuss their feedback at short daily meetings. The Steering Group considered this feedback mechanism critical given the RRNs broad user group of community members and museum professionals and other researchers. With this level of communication between developers and stakeholders, everyone could help shape the system as it was created. Developers were able to gain a better understanding of the problem domain while the stakeholders learned about the software development process.

The RRN's codebase was open sourced in March 2010, with the hope that future projects might benefit from the work done during its development. This fit well with our philosophy of leveraging other freely available tools whenever possible. Amongst the many tools used to build the RRN were PostgreSQL, Google Maps, Github, and Ruby on Rails. One of the primary reasons we selected the Ruby on Rails Web framework was the strength of the community around it. The large number of open source Ruby on Rails plugins available was invaluable in creating the features of the RRN.

Besides frequent feedback from the daily stand-up meetings, the community liaisons, and Web site evaluations, one of the most important drivers in shaping the RRN was the launch of a pilot Web site in September 2007. When new features and improvements were completed, we made them available on the pilot Web site, thus gathering feedback from the constantly growing number of users. Allowing the RRN to grow in this organic manner resulted in a higher quality product, but also created some unique issues.

When the user base was small, direct communication between users and developers allowed us to respond quickly and personally. Users could make feature requests and we would be able to tell them exactly when they were ready. But as the basic features were completed, we found requests became highly specialized and would not necessarily make good general-purpose tools. Changes to the interface were sometimes met with vigorous user pushback, and we were spending increasing amounts of time justifying our design decisions to users via the forums. As we had hoped, the RRN had become a part of users' daily workflow, but perhaps too soon in the development process.

We began to deal with user feedback in a different way. After each update, we gave users time to adapt to the changes before we responded to their feedback. This helped us determine whether the pushback came from negative transfer or another usability problem. Web site evaluations conducted with random people who had not used the RRN further supported the negative transfer theory. In the end, we were able to identify key areas that gave certain user groups more difficulty than others, and focus our attention on improving them. These included:

a) searching

b) distinguishing between public and private areas of the site

c) providing users with a means to submit information in multiple formats.

Each of these is discussed in more detail below.

Backend infrastructure

One of the most daunting challenges faced by the RRN was to harmonize the data provided by eleven different organizations. Luckily, a number of multi-institution, federated search projects had been developed in the past few years, and we set out to learn from them (for example:, CreativeSpaces). While we were researching data harmonization techniques used by these projects, it became apparent that many projects fail at the design stage because a common metadata format cannot be chosen. This was of particular concern to our project, both because of the number of institutions involved and the lack of IT resources available at many of the partner institutions and communities. The project (Ellis, 2009) succeeded in overcoming similar challenges and helped guide the development of our data mapping approach; showed that it was possible, even desirable, to create the data mapping infrastructure without first deciding on a common schema for metadata exchange. By asking our partners to provide XML exported from their CMS without any schema requirements, we were able to minimize the amount of work needed by the partner institutions, while making sure our system was as robust as possible. This data was then mapped and normalized in order to provide a consistent, robust search experience.

Although normalizing data allowed us to provide contextual links within item records and a powerful faceted browsing experience, it was unpopular with the partner institutions. The item record pages looked as though they had been provided "as is" by the institutions, and were not indicative of any normalization process. Providing a link to the original record on the institution's Web site was insufficient because many partners did not yet have their collections on-line. In order to satisfy both the need for a consistent experience and the needs of the partners, the RRN item record was divided into two distinct tabs. The first tab contains the normalized data and allows us to provide a consistent user-friendly experience. The second tab contains the raw un-normalized field names and data in order to allow users to see the data exactly as it was provided to us.

Figure 4a

Figure 4b

Figs 4 a, 4b: Screen capture showing RRN normalized data and institutional data  

Another technical challenge facing the RRN was how to display thumbnails of the items. Our user interface required thumbnails in a number of standardized sizes. Unfortunately, as could be expected, each institution had different thumbnail sizes, and requiring all partners to resize their thumbnails to a common size would have placed an unacceptable strain on their IT resources. Clearly our solution had to remain flexible in case future changes required different sized thumbnails. To overcome this challenge we built a dynamic thumbnail generator and an associated API. When a user’s browser requests an image different from the original image size, the request is forwarded through our thumbnail generation API. This API either serves the thumbnail immediately, if it has already been generated, or retrieves the original image from the institution and creates a new thumbnail before returning it to the user. The small file size of the thumbnails allows us to store them without needing to worry about exhausting the storage available to us. This process also provides us with a lot of flexibility. If we want different sized thumbnails, we need only change the Web site's HTML, not the code that generates the thumbnails.

Initially, we had envisioned that each of the RRN's partner institutions would have its  own dedicated Web server to handle the processing and normalizing of its data and images. This proved to be very unpopular with most institutions, as they did not want a server that they did not control added to their network. In order to utilize the IT infrastructure that most museums already had in place, we transitioned to a model in which there are only two dedicated RRN servers. The first handles serving Web pages to the users of the RRN, while the second is responsible for mapping the data provided by the institutions, and creating thumbnails of images requested by users.

Figure 5

Fig 5: Diagram of RRN Architecture

Features and interface

The RRN combines several novel and important features, including a tag cloud-based faceted searching model, a robust system to facilitate knowledge sharing between users and institutions, social networking features, and a suite of collaborative research tools with a powerful privacy control system. All of these features underwent many revisions where functionality was added or removed to improve the user experience.

Figure 6

Fig 6: Screen capture showing artifact search interface. 1: Items Tab and Search Tab;  2: Text Search;  3: Faceted Search Tag Cloud

A fundamental part of any collections search tool is the user interface. As discussed in our previous paper, the development team developed a faceted interface with tag clouds in order to encourage exploratory searching (Iverson, Rowley et al 2008). Since 2008, this interface has undergone substantial changes in order to reduce its learning curve. During tests of the interface, we found that many people were hesitant to use this unfamiliar method of searching. Users would immediately look for a text input as seen on, sometimes becoming fixated on it and missing important visual cues showing that their search had been successful. Compounding this problem was the fact that the size of the tag cloud search interface meant the results could not be shown alongside. After performing a text search, a user would be looking at the constrained tag clouds, instead of the results they were expecting. To remedy this, we tried placing the tag clouds and the items into separate tabs, so the users could see a visual cue that they had results instead of realizing they needed to scroll down the page. This was unsuccessful because the change was too subtle for most users to notice. Next, we tried to make the visual cues more noticeable, creating a small selection of result thumbnails with an arrow pointing to the results tab. This helped users understand their search was successful, but it now further distracted them from seeing the results tab.

Eventually we settled on a simpler way to resolve the issue, by essentially giving the users what they were used to. We reversed the order of the tabs, placing the items tab first, and placed a text search on the tab so users could search as they were used to. Once the users had searched, we provided cues for them to refine their search and guide them to the faceted search interface. This let new users gain confidence in their ability to use the system and then guided them to a tool designed to aid them further. This seemed to help, but users who found the visual search tools were confused about the relationship between those tools and the text search. Finally, we integrated the same faceted searching that was present in the visual search tools into the text input, and removed the disconnect between the two by keeping the state of both elements synchronized. See Fig. 6. Though still not perfect, this approach makes the interface more intuitive and also allows users to indirectly learn about how one aspect of the search works through using the other.

One of the principal goals of the RRN was to enable users to share their knowledge about an item with the institution that holds the item. This is especially valuable in the context of the Northwest Coast, as many community researchers and elders have extensive knowledge about these items. Our initial implementation of this feature had numerous problems as people were submitting information without appropriate references. We realized mixing public and private spaces on the same page was causing confusion and leading people to submit content that they thought would be private. Multiple modifications to the site helped address the problems users had in understanding our privacy model. To reduce confusion, we removed a feature allowing users to make private notes on the same page that they could submit information. This seemed to help, but it was still unclear to users which aspects of the site were public and which were private. Our solution for making this clearer was to design a consistent privacy indicator present on every form a user submits. If users are unsure who will be able to see the information they are about to submit, they can check the privacy indicator to be certain.

Figure 7

Fig 7: Screen capture showing privacy indicator.
1: Privacy indicator;  2: Mouse hovering over Privacy Indicator

Allowing users to share their knowledge created an issue for the partners. With very limited time available to address these submissions, some institutions were worried that they would be overwhelmed. In order to address,these concerns, we built an interface for institutions to manage this information. By creating this very simple suite of tools, we allowed the institutions to process these submissions as they had time.

Figure 8

Fig 8: Screen capture showing Submission Management interface

The RRN was to be a collaborative research tool and would require an aspect of social networking so users could locate others with similar interests. These features were built with restraint because many users and partners were concerned that the site could lose its research focus. To address these concerns, we limited the scope of features to those we felt were invaluable in connecting users. These include a private messaging system; the ability to add a biography, keywords and a photo; and the ability to search for others using keywords. By suggesting content and keywords, we encourage research-oriented profile information. Though we have had some success forming new connections between researchers, the development team still sees the social networking features of the RRN as a work in progress, and is continually looking for better ways of connecting users for the purpose of collaborative research.

Figure 9

Fig 9: Screen capture showing a user's profile

The RRN's Projects feature allows users to select objects from the RRN and collaborate with other researchers in a private space. The development philosophy for this section was to build simple tools leveraging the strengths of the Internet, while still providing options to export the work done into a variety of formats. In order to build trust within a virtual environment, we gave users complete control over their projects at multiple levels. In this way, as trust develops, privacy settings can be altered. The creator of a project decides to make the project private (no one except invitees can see it exists), closed (all users can see the name and description but none of the contents of the project: they can request to join the collection), or public (all users can see all content within the collection). Likewise, the project manager can alter the access of project members at very fine levels if required.

Figure 10

Fig 10: Screen capture showing Project privacy controls

Each feature we added to Projects increased the complexity of a primary tool on the RRN. To manage this problem, we looked at other products with intuitive interfaces and tried to emulate their success. We realized we could eliminate many save buttons if we followed Google and Apple's method of just saving as the user types. Many sites show progress indicators when the user makes a change, but we found it helped the user when the change appeared instantly on the screen and saving happened "behind the scenes." This let the users forget they were using a Web application, and let them focus on the task they wanted to complete.

Reciprocity and Paradigm Shifts

The networking functions enable discussions about objects and their cultural heritage. Participants are able to engage in a reciprocal process of sharing, discussing and creating new knowledge. During the pilot phase, the RRN had over 500 users, from students to community members to museum staff. Numerous examples exist as to how the RRN is altering research. For example, curators and community members have developed relationships based on discussions started on the RRN; cultural treasures have been identified to community and maker; kinship relations between creators have been added; one gallery has been created by a group working from different locations to write exhibit text, preview images and select materials; and one group of students has piloted the use of the RRN as a place where endangered languages can be preserved through written and spoken language.

The user-submitted information about Rena Point Bolton's basketry Hat (Museum of Anthropology Nbz903) provides just one example of how researchers are using the system. Rena created this hat based on the earliest known sketch of a Musqueam chief. Jose Cardero drew it in 1792. A curator, a community liaison worker, and a researcher have added information about the artist. Additionally, an interview with the artist has been submitted as an MP3 file. The museum narrative about the hat states,

Rena notes that this hat should also have a plumage of split feathers and bark on top. However, at the time when this hat was made she didn't have any feathers. The feathers in the portrait are quite dark, and Rena felt that they were probably eagle feathers. The rest of the plumage would have been pounded cedar bark.

In the interview with Herb Joe, Jr. and her daughter Wendy Ritchie, Rena says,

It had on top feathers mixed with cedar bark but I didn't put that on because I think it was a chief who was wearing it and I didn't want to insult the spirit world by putting the adornments on it if they didn't deserve it so I just left it plain.

Having heard this interview, one of the RRN staff called the office of the Musqueam Indian Band which has a copy of the original sketch, to ask for permission to attach a jpeg of the sketch to the item record. The hat now is being reconnected to the sketch, the language and its re-creator – providing a richer, multi-layered context and creating new knowledge.


The RRN is still a work in progress. Already, we are seeing the recovery of lost connections and the creation of a more holistic approach where stories, language, people, the land and cultural heritage are reconnected. Fortunately, the main funder has provided operating funds for the next five years, allowing us to continue development. We are also aware of new partners – aboriginal communities and cultural institutions – who would like to join, link their collections and enter the reciprocal dialogue. This follows from the initial grant application statement: "The network will expand in two ways: to include other partners in Northwest Coast research and to conduct research in other areas" (MOA 2001:4a). At the celebration of the "A Partnership of Peoples" project held at the Museum of Anthropology in January 2010, the Honourable Ralph Regenvanu, Director of the Vanuatu National Cultural Council, remarked that he was looking for the RRN to expand so that they, who are so far away from most of their collections, could join and contribute.


The creation of the RRN would not have been possible without the contributions of community members, partner institutions and other users of the RRN who took the time to comment and guide our work. The community liaison researchers and RRN staff on the project were: Frank Andrew (Stó:lō), Jody Felix (Musqueam), David Houghton (U'mista), Lillian Hunt (U'mista), Lawrence Isaac (U'mista), Herb Joe jr. (Stó:lō), Wendy Ritchie (Stó:lō), June Sparrow (Musqueam), Terry Point (Musqueam), William Wasden jr. (U'mista), Percy Williams (U'mista), Herman Bruce (U'mista), Charlene Point (Stó:lō), Darwin Douglas (Stó:lō), Sharon Fortney, Jamie Cooper, Joanne Kienholz, Astrid Knight, Taylor Lavallee, and Robyn Putnam. The partner institution representatives were: Karen Estrin, Carl Hogsden, Anita Herle, Laura Peers, Carrie Beauchamp, Corri MacEwen, Guislaine Lemay, Gerald Conaty, Andrea Laforet, Brian Porter, Ken Lister, Martha Black, Barry Landua, Peter Whiteley, Robin Wright, Carolyn McClellan, DucPhong Ngyuyen, Haas Ezzet, and Stephanie Poisson.

Special thanks for consistent support go to Kate Hennessy, Sonny McHalsie (SRRMC), Jens Haeusser, Chief Bill Cranmer (U'mista), Jordan Wilson (Musqueam), Ann Stevenson, Patricia Shaw, Larry Grant (Musqueam), Tia Halstad (SRRMC), Tracey Joe (SRRMC), Jason Woolman, Krista Bergstrom, Nancy Bruegeman, Carol Mayer, Karen Duffek, Bill McLennan, and Michael Blake.

Funding for this project came from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the British Columbia Knowledge Development Fund, Canadian Heritage, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Vancouver Foundation, Yosef Wosk, Young Canada Works, the University of British Columbia, and the UBC Faculty of Arts.


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U'mista Cultural Society Collections:


Cite as:

Rowley, S. et al., Building an On-Line Research Community: The Reciprocal Research Network. In J. Trant and D. Bearman (eds). Museums and the Web 2010: Proceedings. Toronto: Archives & Museum Informatics. Published March 31, 2010. Consulted