Our definition of “Digital Archives” is capacious enough to include any digital collection of cultural objects. By digital, we mean any method that uses electronic technology to capture, store, display, and/or analyze objects. An object can be analog or digital – text, image, audio, video, or any kind of physical artifact.
We believe that all collections are somewhat curated and are wary of the pretense toward objectivity in all knowledge structures and taxonomizing projects. We try to promote archival practices that trouble positivistic notions of gathering and preservation. We aim to blur the lines between display and analysis, capture and observation, data and experience.
The following is an overview of three general areas of digital archival projects that work with physical artifacts, text, and audio. These areas encompass archival approaches as diverse as catalogs, exhibitions, text encoding, text editing, text analysis, web scraping, oral history, sound studies, and web archiving. Our overview provides a general sense of how to capture and display information about these types of objects. Please see our Methods & Tools section for more information and tutorials.
Working with Physical Artifacts
Working with physical artifacts often involves not only displaying them, but also making them legible. Physical artifacts might include items such as books, pictures, videos, objects, artworks which are recorded and displayed with images, audio, and relevant metadata on a Content Management System (CMS). These projects might take the form of catalogs and exhibitions.
Sample project: East Bay Punk Digital Archive, by Stefano Morello (English)
Working with Text
Working with electronic text includes a range of activities from text encoding to text analysis and visualization. These projects might use encoding methods (such as XML and TEI) to mark up textual elements or analytical methods (such as Python and MALLET) in order to clean, sort, or process textual data. These projects may or may not incorporate visualization or web publishing to display their content.
Sample project: “Everything On Paper Will Be Used Against Me”: A Computational Analysis of Henry A. Kissinger’s Vietnam-Era Correspondence by Micki Kauffman (History)
Working with Audio
Working with audio typically involves capturing, optimizing, and analyzing audio, usually for access and preservation. Projects that feature audio might include recording, digitizing, cleaning, transcribing, tagging, sorting, and publishing. It makes use of recording hardware (such as microphones and recorders) and software (such as Audacity, OHMS). These projects could range from recording ambient soundscapes of particular locales to oral history interviews.
Sample project: Ro(u)ted By Our Stories by Arita Balaram (Critical Social Psychology)
Working with the Web
Working with born digital materials entails making sure that they don’t disappear or get lost on the web. Web Archiving is the process of capturing the content of digital-born artifacts for long-term preservation. Archivists traditionally use “web crawlers,” or little programs that browse the web and automatically index the results, and some web crawlers can be pointed to specific web sites or collections.
Sample project: Venereal Disease Visual History Archive by Erin Wuebker (History)