Image of Ricky Punzalan speaking at a lectern

I’m an associate professor at the University of Michigan School of Information. My scholarship is in the area of archives and digital curation. In particular, I study the access and use of digitized anthropological archives and ethnographic data on academic and Indigenous researchers. I believe that archives and legacy research data must not only advance academic research, but also contribute in the wellbeing of communities. My research has had the greatest impact in the area of virtual reunification and digital repatriation of cultural heritage collections. This research brought to the fore a critical challenge faced by underserved and Indigenous communities and created dialogs between communities and cultural institutions. To do this work, I design and carry out community-based, participatory research projects, which incorporate the perspectives of cultural heritage stakeholders beyond academic researchers.

My research engages anthropological records and collections in various ways. In 2016, I received an Early Career grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) for my research, Valuing Our Scans: Understanding the Impacts of Digitized Native American Ethnographic Archives, to study and develop strategies to assess the impact of access to, and use of, digitized ethnographic archives for academic and Native American researchers. I also continue to pursue my research that examines ‘virtual reunification,’ which is as a strategy to provide integrated access to dispersed ethnographic archival images online. Through a Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research grant, I co-organized a 2-day workshop, Revitalizing the Council for the Preservation of Anthropological Records (CoPAR) for the Digital Age in 2016. I am currently leading the effort to re-envision CoPAR to serve the needs of anthropologists and archivists to preserve ethnographic records and field research data as these become increasingly digitized and/or born-digital. More recently, I have been collaborating with colleagues at the University of Toronto to improve access to cultural heritage items in the Great Lakes Research Alliance for the Study of Aboriginal Arts & Cultures (GRASAC) Knowledge Sharing System.

I have been active internationally in developing community-focused archival work. In May and June 2009, I worked in Techiman, Ghana, to establish the archives of its traditional council and studied the impact of placing this archival unit within a proposed community heritage center. From 2005 to 2006, I organized the archives of Culion, a former leprosarium in the Philippines, and curated a museum exhibit for the centennial of the community’s founding as a segregation facility for people with leprosy.

I hold a Ph.D. in Information as well as graduate certificates in Science, Technology, and Society (STS) and Museum Studies from the University of Michigan. Prior to my doctoral work, I taught on the faculty of the University of the Philippines’ School of Library and Information Studies, where I served as assistant professor of archives and library science and as museum archivist for the Vargas Museum, an art museum connected to the University. I have been a research associate at the Smithsonian’s National Anthropological Archives since 2014 and currently serves on the Council of the Society of American Archivists.

My publications have appeared in leading archives journals, including the Library Quarterly, Library Trends, American Archivist, Archivaria, Archives and Manuscripts, and Archival Science. My work on ethnographic archives and digitization has been published in Practicing Anthropology in Summer 2015. In 2012, I received the Hugh A. Taylor Prize from the Association of Canadian Archivists for his co-authored article in Archivaria on users and uses of digitized photographic archives.

Photo credit: The Rita M. Cacas Foundation