Friday, April 22, 2016

Scientific Archives in the Age of Digitization

Scientific Archives in the Age of Digitization. Brian Ogilvie. The University of Chicago Press Journals. March 2016.
     Historians are increasingly working with material that has been digitized; they need to be aware "of the scope of digitization, the reasons why material is chosen to be digitized, and limitations on the dissemination of digitized sources."  Some physical aspects of sources, and of collections of sources, are lost in their digital versions. Some notes from the article:
  • "Digitization of unique archival material occupies an ambiguous place between access and publication."
  • digitized archives reproduce unique archival material with finding aids but without significant editorial commentary that allows for open-ended historical inquiry without the need to travel to archives  
  • the digitized archive also raises questions and challenges for historical practice, specifically 
    • the digitizing decision and funding
    • balancing digital access against some owners’ interests in restricting access
    • aspects of the physical archive that may be lost in digitization
    • the possibility of combining resources from a number of physical archives
  • most digitization projects have been selective in their scope
  • scholars cannot assume that material has been digitized, nor that all material has been digitized, unless the archive specifically states that
  • digitized material is not always freely available, e.g. subscription based archives
  • many archivists "fear that their traditional task of preparing detailed collection inventories is under threat owing to dwindling resources and the demand for digitization."

Digital Preservation notes:
  • projects have undeniable benefits for the preservation of documents and access to them.
  • In the interest of preserving their holdings and disseminating them to a broad public, archives are increasingly digitizing their collections. 
  • historians interested in digital preservation of archives, and electronic access to them, would be well advised to seek out collaborations with archivists.

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