Practicum: 9/11 Digital Archive and Bracero History Archive

9/11 Digital Archive

Launched shortly after the attacks, the 9/11 Digitial Archives uses electronic media to collect, preserve, and present the history of 9/11 and its aftermath. The archives contains over 150,000 digital items, such as emails, personal stories, and digital images. There is also a section of the archive with gathered links of additional resources the user can use in order to research more information about the attacks on 9/11. The 9/11 Digital Archives is also powered by Omeka which was cool to see since we learned about Omeka two weeks ago in class.

For someone, like me, who has never seen the 9/11 Digital Archives before, the website is very easy to navigate. To search the collection, there is a collection tab that you can click and sends you to this screen, categorizing the digital collection into seperate sections, such as Audio, Personal Accounts, Photography, etc.

Collection categories

When a user click on one of the boxes, for example on the photography box, the user is sent to a page with a description of what is categorized under photography and a collection tree with links for all of the digital photographs, usually organized by people or title, that the user can click on and browse through or download.

List of the digital photographs available
Photographs contributed in memory of David Tengelin

One of the cool things about the 9/11 Digital Archives is that it is very easy for the average person to contribute their own content and personal stories to the archive. The user just clicks on the contribute tab and fills out the boxes of information. Any user can contribute their own personal story or audio, video, or digital images to the archives.

Contribution page

Bracero History Archives

The Bracero History Archives collects and makes available the oral histories and artifacts pertaining to the Bracero program, a guest worker initiative that spanned the years 1942-1964 where millions of Mexican agricultural workers crossed the border to work in more than half of the states in America. Users of the digital archive have the option to browse through the collections in either English or Spanish, making the archive accessible to a wide audience.

Home page

When the online user goes through the collection, they have the option to browse through the entire collection (3,209 items), or can browse through particular divisions of the collection: Images, Documents, Oral Histories, and Contributed Items. The collection items are not listed in any particular order, such as alphabetization, so unless the user has a specfic individual or item they are looking for that they can type in the search box, the user has to take more time to look through the collection to find what he or she may be looking for.

Collection items
Documents in the collection

The Bracero History Archives also offers users a selected bibliography if users are interested in researching the history of the Bracero program beyond the archives. The archives also offers resources for teachers to teach students about the Bracero program and also offers online tutorials on how to navigate the online archives for first time users.

Compared to the 9/11 Digital Archives, I found it much harder to contribute my own personal items to the archives. Even though the Bracero History Archives offer another video tutorial on how to contribute digital items to the archive, I still couldn’t figure out where on the website I go to contribute the items myself. I also think the website has changed since these video tutorials were created, making it difficult to find out where I am supposed to go to contribute digital items to the archives. Kudos to the people who figured it out though, since there are many contributed items to the archives.

Contributed item

Overall, I thought both digital archives were interesting and easy to use. I especially liked that both offered ways for ordinary users to contribute their own items to the digital archives.

Do you prefer one digital archive over another?

5 Replies to “Practicum: 9/11 Digital Archive and Bracero History Archive”

  1. I found both archives fascinating, but I was disappointed in the clunkiness of both sites. I understand that many of these archives potentially are not given funding to make their sites sleeker but it still makes me questions the legitimacy of sites when they are not more modern looking. The 9/11 one was particularly difficult to navigate, where it took a few clicks to try and zoom in on one individual image of audio file. The Bracero website was more streamlined and better organized. Something I hadn’t considered is how easy the sites make uploading your own content, which according to your blog post the 9/11 website does a better job at. This can mean more content, but doesn’t always necessarily mean more quality content when uploaded by individual users. I’m curious to see how closely these websites are vetted for their user submitted content.

    1. There wasn’t really any information on how often the content gets vetted by people working behind the scenes of the digital archives. Based on the contributed content on the Bracero History Archive, I would say not very often. Each contributed item had a line in the beginning of the item warning users that the content had yet to be vetted by a project historian. I agree with your comment about quality vs. quantity within each archive. Many of the contributed items that I saw, while interesting, were not the most rich in content.

    2. You bring up a good point about the “clunkiness” of both of these sites and how this affects the legitimacy of the information available. Especially as digital archives begin to age and are not kept up they will not only look and feel worse but may at some point be difficult for users who are used to different kinds of websites to interact with. Children are increasingly taught with digital tools that are streamlined and in certain formats. Will the construction of these archives allow this information to be continually accessible to future generations unused to current digital interaction methods?

  2. The 9/11 archive is such an interesting case study because it was started so early after the event it’s chronicling – the website launched in 2002. This was possible, I imagine, because 9/11 was one of the relatively rare events where it was clear immediately after it happened that it was going to have tremendous historical impact, even it it wasn’t clear right away what that impact was going to be. It wasn’t hard for an archivist or historian to see the value in collecting material related to 9/11 right away, and digital technology made that easier.

    I wonder, though, whether that creates a problem with oversaturation? For example, I searched “flag” and got 2684 results, many of which were just pictures of flags or people with flags without only tenuous connection to 9/11. Given that that day had such a deep impact on so many people, there are going to be a lot of folks who want to contribute to the archive, and it might be hard to turn someone away or tell them their contribution isn’t needed when they have a strong emotional connection to it.

  3. This idea of the clunkiness of the digital archives is interesting in comparison to a physical archives. Physical archives are de facto clunkier than digital processes, by virtue of the space they take up. Yet, good archives (meat space or digital) are organized. In a physical archives, the order of items give one another context. In digital space, some of that order and context are lost, and so it falls to navigability to make up for the the ability to physically order items. If a digital space is clunky, it’s a less effective archive and a less effective experience.

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