Preservation & Access in the Lee Family Digital Archive

This post is part of a series featuring behind-the-scenes dispatches from our Pohanka Interns on the front lines of history this summer as interpreters, archivists, and preservationists. See here for the introduction to the series.

By Caitlin Connelly ‘17

In her article “What Is the Meaning of Archives 2.0?,” Kate Theimer discusses the series of changes in beliefs about archival practices which she refers to collectively as “Archives 2.0.” The hallmarks of Archives 2.0 are increasing emphases on flexibility, openness, and collaboration that are meant to meet the needs of modern users, rather than those of users decades in the past. Theimer argues that technology – such as computers, specific software, and social media – has helped to facilitate these changes, but is not the cause of them. Modern archivists now tend to see more value in profession-wide standards of practice and in keeping records of their own work to aid other archivists, now or in the future, though they view their collections as no less unique than in the past. The shift from Archives 1.0 to Archives 2.0 can be characterized by the increasing use of technology to assist in archival work, such as recording and measuring, and in the effort to reach out to and work with users. Theimer describes Archives 1.0 like an opaque bubble where archivists worked isolated from each other and with the preservation of their collections as their sole concern, with a far lesser emphasis on researchers. Archives 2.0, on the other hand, is described as primarily user-centric, with archivists now more concerned with providing a service than just acting as guardians of the collections. The majority of the changes from Archives 1.0 to Archives 2.0 have come about because of this shift of focus.

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The Lee Family Digital Archive at Stratford Hall is a good example of the changes Theimer points to as the elements of Archives 2.0. I think one of the major aspects of this is technology. As a digital archive, the LFDA is engaged in uploading digital transcriptions and scanned images of the documents in its collections to a website where they can be easily accessed by researchers who are not able or willing to travel to the site as they might have done so in the past. We also try to engage with users on social media by operating a blog and a Twitter account, which has a fairly good following considering it was only created at the end of May. The physical archives themselves are also open to researchers of all kinds, from professionals to amateurs, including people looking to research their family backgrounds. These principles are helping me to see that the purpose of archives is to be a useful resource to researchers in addition to the preservation of historical materials, rather than one or the other. I am also better able to understand the reasoning behind certain practices that we have and behind the changes the people who work here would like to see in the future. Overall, I can see that the LFDA is making the effort to embrace Archives 2.0 through its evolving mission to make the archives accessible and easy to use.


Sources:

Kate Theimer, “What Is the Meaning of Archives 2.0?,” American Archivist, Vol. 74, No. 1 (Spring/Summer 2011): 58-68

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