Blog 3: Archiving, Curating, and Family History

The process of preserving data is about storing the data by scanning, photographing, and collecting all the sources. The Library of Congress discusses how preservation is done and talks about their processes to scan and take photos with a ‘How to Preserve Your Own Digital Materials.’ Curating data is how one organizes the data, choosing what is preserved and archived. This is an inherently biased process because of the discretion of the archivist in deciding what to curate for the collection. Aggregating data, according to Fenlon, Jett, and Palmer, is the “collections of collections.” Aggregating is about how to put together of other databases and coalesce projects into a broader collection. 

The chapters by Roy Rosensweig and Daniel Cohen on Digital History discuss the tension. While these mediums of digitizing historical material are innovative and promising, it also presents many challenges. An evident challenge is funding as these projects, with the amount of time, the type of software needed, and its maintenance can accumulate a large price tag. The more one seeks to preserve the more costly it is to upkeep the project. There are also qualitative concerns as these chapters address the fine line between accessibility on the Web with the concern of how historically true they can be. If you get collaborations on the project, it is important to be flexible and accept that there will be collections that you receive that may not be what you initially sought after. The remedy of costs seems to be that many archiving projects get institutional support and partnerships with government and colleges to keep these open. 

I also think that some of the tensions regarding digitizing history are the ambiguity of its future. Due to this ambiguity, digital historians require to make a lot of justifications to others in the field about the usefulness and viability of these methods. What we discussed in class about the nature of archiving the Internet, large platforms such as social media which hold an immense digital footprint of the early 21st century, and the cost to upkeep it are daunting to think about. 

In one of the archive examples, I found that you could not access links that the author scanned and posted in the text. The One Family’s Personal Digital Archives Project had links on what he scanned and links on another website he made were defunct due to services that they could not maintain such as the website domain. These are costly endeavors that require a lot of attention, thus making this still somewhat inaccessible to people who want to archive to their heart’s content. Fold3, which contains a lot of documentation on military photos and records is also under Ancestry, a private company that requires subscriptions in order for people to access their records. This makes it difficult for people to keep up their preservations and provide a nicely displayed project for posterity. 

In documenting my family history, I would curate my collection to fit milestones and significant family trips in our lives. In my case, I would start with the generation I have the most familiarity with and with whom I have the greatest amount of sources. I would start with my grandparents and trace their journeys and how they got to the United States. Preferably, I would post a map and denote pin drops on the significant places, briefly describing their importance to the overall narrative. I would post important milestones such as weddings, birthdays, and trips, detailing each and when they occurred. The way I would decide is based on what I feel contributes to the narrative of a current theme. For example, there are family archives that discuss military service as a tradition, immigration, and or family vacations. I would build an archive on journeys of how families sought out the “American Dream.” This project would definitely have a place where other people can contribute. I would like to see the differences in migration and how families can bond over their journeys, as well as underpin the uniqueness and purpose of each story. Over some privacy concerns, I am unsure if making it a public collection right away is prudent, but I do think in the future, it might be helpful for social historians and others to contribute to a public forum.

In terms of objects, I think a number of things play a role to showcase the narrative. Pictures of families at their houses, their surroundings, the things they took with them, and valuable heirlooms that give meaning to the family’s heritage, culture, and story are important for preservation. I would decide by weighing its meaning and value to the narrative. If it were a public collection, I would ask contributors to give a description of why that object was significant and should be added. Family archives should be a space where everything is given thoughtful and subjective meaning. Obviously, one cannot archive every single thing in existence. It is important to back up why something should be preserved through someone’s conviction, story, and belief as to how it will optimize the theme and purpose of the collection.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.