Digitizing Archives and Information

As the reading from Julia Flanders and Trevor Munoz presents, Preserving, curating, and aggregating data all come with different challenges when digitalizing information. Preservation is by definition, “to keep alive or in existence.” Within the digital realm, preservation of information proves problematic due to its the extensive amount of work and effort needed to digitally preserve all information as well as the upkeep of data. Preservation of digital data also lacks a physical existence, so digital information could vanish at any point and become unreachable. Furthermore, data preservation is decided upon the preserver. Curating, however, is selective based. Rather than collecting and maintaining extensive data like preservation, curation is removing an object from its original purpose and to use it for a specific narrative. Through curation, one contextualizes the subject and places it within a collection to tell a historical story. Unfortunately, curation removes the object from its original context removing it of its meaning. Aggregating data is, unlike the previous two, a mass conglomeration of data and collection in an unorganized manner.  Aggregating allows historians access to vast amounts of information and data; however, the distinction among sources and contextualizing them lacks. However, archiving data does come with its limits. Each database is created by an archivist, who approaches any particular topic with their bias.

Digitizing my family’s history would prove easier than for most. My parents have already been digitizing our old family year books for several years now. we have several digital and physical backups of them, so we have covered the bases to a certain extent. Digitizing old family videos would prove problematic, and, although the tools are there, they would probably be out of our reach. I would archive the majority of the data, which includes photos, old letters, and objects that help tell my families story. I would archive my father’s old skateboards and his old tools that his dad passed down to him for woodwork. Furthermore, my family loved to collect old antiques ranging from pinball machines to a 50’s Coca-Cola machine they brought back from Mississippi. Each item will be categorized into various sections such as Family Trips, Family Events, Father’s items and Mother’s items, and other such categories. A search engine would prove useful after each source and item have had their metadata completed, yet it will be quite a bit of work. Although I would enjoy for everyone to add to the archive, I would limit contributors to the family. If others want to contribute, I would have them go through myself for the sake of maintaining the integrity of the database. The most difficult part of the archive would be choosing what and what not to include. Certain private aspects of my family’s life will be kept for the sake of my family, especially if my family felt uncomfortable with certain information on the internet. However, archiving all my families information by myself would prove problematic due to time constraints.

The lack of time for myself and other historians creates a problem for archiving data. Therefore, archivists, preservers, and curators all must consider the limited amount of time they have to complete their tasks. Furthermore, limited time means one must know exactly what sort of items and objects that will provide in their collection. This, in turn, leads to a self-selection process of the archivist, which creates a single narrative with its biased approach. Finding the most relevant information for the narrative of the collection will allow historians to form a coherent database but at the same time will create a single narrative depending on the time the archivist has to sort through and analyze the data. Although countless hours and a lot of effort are put into these archives, I believe every archive should be open to anyone. Sites like JSTOR archive academic journals and limit their access to scholars, thus isolating this information from the public. Digital history projects provide an avenue for the public and other researchers to gain insight as well as primary sources. Open preservation of data does, however, have its problems.

Many people are not trained to thoroughly analyze primary sources as well as the source they are receiving it from. People are unaware that the internet does not legitimize information and analysis and will learn from bad history and bad analysis. This appears to be unavoidable currently, for the web is a dynamic source that is always shifting and presenting new thoughts, whether good or bad. Archives and databases, although public, are not constantly being observed by the majority of people. It is important to note that history is interpretative; however, good history provides substantial evidence with thorough analysis. There are countless sources of bad history that also influence



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