Digitizing Everything: Online Archives and Digital Collections

While researching topics for tomorrows “dorkshorts”, I came across a generous blogpost that gives an easy-to-understand run-down of archive digitization and it’s various difficulties. Written by Samantha Thompson, an archivist at Peel Art Gallery Museum + Archive in Ontario, Canada, Why Don’t archivists Digitize Everything? describes the massive amount of work that goes into an archive; including the physical processing, documentation and digitization (which, according to Thompson, can sadly be misconstrued by the layperson as a “permanent” act of preservation), producing metadata, and the human labor of maintaining a digital archive.

I find this topic fascinating as large institutions increasingly present their archives and collections to viewers online via accessible databases. One such example is the New Museum’s Digital Archive, which launched in 2017. Undoubtedly, decades of hard work by innumerable people and years of technical preparation went into the finished product of this website, but I think aspects of the design–it’s accessibility, informativeness, multiple entry-points for browsing, etc.–intended to improve user experience, can lead a user to take all of this hard work for granted. It’s so easy to use–it must have been easy to make! (Disclaimer: it’s not)

While the height of online digital collections–like those of the Met, MoMAFrick, and Whitney–are really useful and impressive, smaller entities–like university art museums, artist estates, and private collections have the need to digitize as well, even if it’s only for the purpose of increasing the value of their collection.

Here is one interesting free archiving resource by the Smithsonian (which also has a digital collection), boldly entitled “Digitizing Entire Collections”, and one more from the Federal Agencies Digital Guidelines Initiative.

– Posted by Meghan Lyon, Info 653_01

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by Hugh McLeod

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Pratt Institute School of Information
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