As so often in discussions about digital archives, I found myself wondering, What about the vast majority of archival materials in our collections that are not digitized, and to be honest likely never will be? While we debate about the need for more, and more complex, description of the already-digitized, and as resources are redirected to these projects and away from basic processing, don’t the majority of the materials under our care risk becoming less and less accessible? And if so, in the context of a culture where - increasingly - if it’s not online it effectively doesn’t exist, doesn’t the selection of materials for digitization become the most powerful point of intervention in the quest to make sure previously absent voices are heard?

- Lisa Darms

Lisa’s so darned smart/good at her job that I like to brag that we went to class together so people will think I am as good by association. A counter-question I would like to pose: Should Archivists be fighting against the cultural notion of “if it’s not online it effectively doesn’t exist”? Usually I am against the idea of Archivists attempting to combat or influence cultural trends of how information is accessed and used, but one should never be dogmatic about these things and this is a trend that is actually outright harmful to scholarship, research, and inquiry. Anyone working within the Information Science fields should know that this assumption (“Everything’s online. Or at least everything worth knowing/looking up”) is not remotely true, nor will it ever be. I think the responsible and digitally minded archivist should be combating this notion as part of their daily work (I am open to ideas how, still brainstorming it all myself). And I think combating this terribly flawed idea goes hand in hand with providing greater access to non-digitized materials. Regardless of how much and how well we digitize, we need to knock the privileged status of digitized material down a peg.

  1. archivesish posted this