Welcome to Local Contexts

Local Contexts is an initiative to support Native, First Nations, Aboriginal, Inuit, Metis and Indigenous communities in the management of their intellectual property and cultural heritage specifically within the digital environment. Local Contexts provides legal, extra-legal, and educational strategies for navigating copyright law and the public domain status of this valuable cultural heritage. By providing strategic resources and practical solutions, Local Contexts and our partners are working towards a new paradigm of rights and responsibilities that recognizes the inherent sovereignty that Indigenous communities have over their cultural heritage. 

Project History

The Local Contexts project grew from the needs of Indigenous, local and traditional communities who wanted a practical method to deal with the range of intellectual property issues that arise in relation to managing cultural heritage materials. Emerging from the Mukurtu CMS platform’s use of traditional knowledge fields to incorporate traditional knowledge and copyright concerns, Local Contexts started as a way to provide strategies for managing, sharing, and protecting digital heritage. After three years of testing, workshops with local communities, and technical development, the Local Contexts project team created the current set of TK Labels. In an increasingly complex legal, social and cultural environment, the TK Labels offer Indigenous stakeholders the tools to add cultural and historical context to their cultural heritage content in non-indigenous digital archives, libraries, and museums globally and to their own local digital heritage archives. As part of the broader Local Contexts initiative, we are also developing a set of TK Licenses to address the specific legal status of Indigenous, traditional and locally owned materials. The TK Licenses will compliment the TK Labels by providing communities with a set of practical options for managing cultural heritage materials. The design for the TK Label and License icons were developed in collaboration with Alexander Hage.


Advisory Board

Our Advisory Board has been developed to advise Local Contexts on matters including: project development and testing; outreach to Native/First Nations communities; best practices/changing standards; community and participatory research projects; cultural heritage collections management; outreach to collecting institution sector; sustainability, growth and expansion of project with project partners; intellectual property and non-legislative interventions; and, scholarly outreach and impact.

  • Sonya Atalay, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
  • Aaron Glass, PhD, Associate Professor, Museums and Anthropology, Bard Graduate Center.
  • Guha Shankar, Folklore Specialist, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress.
  • Jason Schultz, Clinical Professor of Law, New York University School of Law.
  • Natasha Lyons, PhD, Director and Senior Archaeologist, Ursus Heritage Consulting.
  • Greg Younging, PhD, Professor of Indigenous Studies, Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences, Okanagan Campus, University of British Columbia.


Local Contexts is made possible, in part, by development funds and grants from:

  • World Intellectual Property Organization, Traditional Knowledge Division
  • Intellectual Property Issues in Cultural Heritage (IPinCH)
  • New York University¬†Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
  • Arcadia Foundation