Working in an archive, things can get…messy. Learn more about different kinds of contaminants in archives here!
We are living in a digital world, we all know it and there is no escaping it. As archivists, we can either get on board with the digital revolution or resist it. But where’s the fun in that? Online archival work has existed since the dawn of the internet, and it is the job of some archivists out there to help create web-accessible platforms for archival materials. Through online archival projects, archivists and curators can push the boundaries of what it means to preserve cultural artifacts and how the public interacts with them. While this process can seem daunting, here are a few reasons why web-accessible archives are excellent for archivists.
1. STORAGE SPACE: Who Needs It?
When we create web-accessible archives, folks do not need to have tons of available physical space in order to have tons of access to information. Through online platforms like the National Archives’ digital exhibitions, people can interact with the information and formats available to cultural institutions without the fuss of finding the actual room for all the physical materials.
2. Reduce Wear and Tear on Archival Objects
Can you imagine if the thousands of folks who interact with online materials were actually using the physical object? One of the drawbacks of non-digital media is that every time you play it, there is wear and tear. When the public has access to digital, public domain copies of media, they can enjoy the media without destroying it.
3. More Contributions to Archival Projects
With projects like The Internet Archive, people from across the world can contribute to this online space. While other cultural institutions are limited by storage space, distance, and scope of projects, iArchive allows for a potentially endless stream of contributions, and thus more of human history can be saved to the archive.
4. Materials Will Not Be Lost to Time
In endeavors like The Great 78 Project, materials that may have been lost or forgotten to time have a second chance at surviving with the internet. Although the original 78 may not be a viable option for replaying or storage, the online accessible 78 can be played on countless times.
5. More People Get to See and Learn From Materials
Archives, special collections, and museums have traditionally been accessible only to academics, students, or folks with enough money to get in. Online archives and special collections make it possible for more people to learn from materials and databases without the limitations of time and money. When we make it possible for more folks to interact with materials, we create an opportunity for more folks to get educated.
“Through this innovative collaboration, the Internet Archive will bring significant portions of these sound archives online and to life in a way that we couldn’t do alone,” David Leonard, president of the Boston Public Library, says in a statement announcing the initiative.
The library’s collection of 78 rpm recordings, fragile precursors to the LP that were made from shellac, will be included in the digitization effort as part of the Internet Archive’s Great 78 Project, which is working to preserve more than 20 collections of obsolete sound technology.
“The simple fact of the matter is most audiovisual recordings will be lost,” says George Blood, an audio preservation expert who will work on digitizing the library’s collection, according to the library’s statement. “These 78s are disappearing right and left. It is important that we do a good job preserving what we can get to, because there won’t be a second chance.”
Sweeney reports that officials from the Internet Archive have already started boxing up the recordings, which will be sent to Blood in Philadelphia. Where rights allow, the digitized recordings will be available for free streaming and download. Physical copies will be stored in San Francisco, where the Internet Archive is based.