Happy Archives Month!!!
For me, this week’s readings (http://chnm.gmu.edu/digitalhistory/collecting/ ,http://quod.lib.umich.edu/d/dh/12172434.0001.001/1:4/–hacking-the-academy-new-approaches-to-scholarship?g=dculture;rgn=div1;view=fulltext;xc=1#4.7) are a continuation of last week’s readings and discussion about digital humanities.
This week however really emphasizes the importance of archivists. I have several friends who are archivists and I am fascinated by what they do, but I am more happy to benefit from their expertise while I work more with objects. Recently, I have been guest curating an exhibit for the Baltimore Museum of Industry and have worked closely with their archivist to gather photos and background information. It’s been a great collaborative experience – he’s helped me find (and choose) some great photographs and has steered me towards sources of information needed. Working with him has helped develop my own research skills.
I came across this post today from the Smithsonian about their “Ask an Archivist” Day. http://siarchives.si.edu/blog/ask-and-archivist-bring-your-questions-monday-october-27 I find the descriptions of the different kinds of archivists there to be quite interesting and am glad to see the Smithsonian dedicating some of their efforts to preserving their own digitally-born history. I also find it interesting that this whole “event” occurs solely on their Facebook page. It’s very informative and apropos to our discussions this week.
Now go out and thank an archivist!!!
The reading from Daniel Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig http://chnm.gmu.edu/digitalhistory/digitizing/ in particular resonated with me. I started volunteering and working in the museum field about 7 years ago and one of the things I have noticed is the push for museums to digitize their collections and make them available online. At the very minimum most museums are expected to have a web site with a link to information about their collection highlights. Expectations are now leaning towards museums providing a link to a searchable database of at least part of their collection.
I have done some work in posting select collection objects to a searchable portal and it’s not easy. There were issues with the compatibility of the collections software the museum used, the online portal, and editing the amount of information that was sent to the portal. Ultimately, it didn’t happen. The museum board assumed it could be done easily so no real plan was made and eventually the project was dropped. But I have been at other museums where the effort to digitize has been successful and is ongoing. The response from the public and researchers has been very enthusiastic and requests for copies of photographs and other images is a good source of revenue for the museum.
I know that many museums had concerns in the beginning that digitizing and making images of their collections available online would decrease their visitation – in truth, it has actually helped increase visitation as people are more curious about the museum and want to see the actual object(s) they saw online. I think it’s definitely the path that museums and other public institutions not just should take, but MUST take in order to attract more attention to themselves and attract researchers and visitors.