1/28 – Digital Archiving

While the preservation, curation, and aggregation of data and artifacts is important to any kind of history, they each are very different when it comes to digital history. Preservation is a difficult task when it comes to digital history, as the propensity to destroy artifacts once digitized is high. Physical artifacts take up a lot of space and resources, especially very old ones, while digitized artifacts take up almost no space at all and require very little resources. While artifacts may be quantifiable in a myriad of ways, the physical experience of handling it is impossible to replicate with digital archival. Archival on the other hand is much more powerful with digital history since computer databases can be indexed and searched nearly instantly. When meta tags are included in an archive, similar artifacts can be suggested, making digital archival much more powerful. This power is dependent on the Curation of the content however, and can only be realized when handled by a curator who is familiar with digital methods. These curators are also responsible for aggregating digital articles to include in a database. This aggregation can be done manually by entering each piece into a database by hand, or automatically using crawlers, scripts, and programs to collect, attribute, and categorize the data.

One major problem with digital history is that of digital rights for intellectual property. Since the internet is still relatively new and so quickly evolving, IP laws are lagging behind. Now, money is paid for a licence to display the material all at once, usually in a large sum, but that may be prohibitive to smaller projects with more limited budgets. As discussed with the Elizabeth Murray project, copyright costs are a majority of the budget of a project.

When creating a personal project, you have to decide what you want to keep private and what you want to display. If I made a family history project, I would have to ask each family member if they wanted to be included, and I might need release forms to be signed for the images. If the images were taken by a professional photographer I would have to abide by the license they attributed to the images and perhaps pay royalties. The project wouldn’t have to have huge hosting costs since it I’m not famous and only my family would look at it. I could make tagging material collaborative too to reduce my own workload and help with the accuracy of information.

I think in any case, and archivist should look at the material’s relevance to the project and decide on a cutoff by degrees of separation. A tree structure would work well with that since you could see how items are related and their degrees of separation from the original object.

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