The readings this week made me enthusiastic for the future of our fields. I think that for any profession to continue to exist, there needs to be at least an awareness of the need for evolution. If we take the readings as they are, then we see that archives are embracing both “more product, less process” and digital objects.
The Way It Was and Why We Need to Change
The Owens chapter is laid out in a way that ensures the reader has the context necessary to understand exactly where the future with digital object description and organization should be. In a traditional archive filled with physical objects and records, the practice has long been to spend the majority of your time to describe a collection and arrange the records. In the “Disrespect des Fonds” article, we see an emphasis to change this approach in order to expand the ways that we can approach collections when they become digital and archivists no longer “must be sorted, ordered, and stored sequentially in space” (Bailey 2013). We do this in order to better fit the future of born-digital materials that do not require the same types of effort to make records findable and available to the public.
The truth is that digital objects, especially born-digital objects, must be treated differently from physical objects. This is because they are different. They often come with a sizable amount of metadata before a describer sees the object. While this is not necessarily the information collectors want, it provides a certain amount of pre-processing that they will not need to do, freeing up time to increase the records’ findability.
How Do We Change
Peterson’s blog post delves into the details of Archive-It, a web archiving tool. She explains that the tool organizes their records into three distinct categories: seeds, collections, and crawls. The seeds are the individual URLs (I suppose it could be any unique identifier for a digital object). Seeds will come to the collector with metadata already attached to it (technical metadata). The collections are the first level of organization for the seeds. Finally, the crawl is the complete intake. These would be equivalent to a traditional: folder, series, and collection in an archive. For instance, at my job in Preservation, we recently completed our portion of a digitization project. We were given eight boxes full of folders (seeds), from the first series titled “Day Books” (collection), from the Brooke Family Archive (crawl). These terms, or those similar to these, are good ways for professionals involved in digital curation to think about the approaches to digital objects and how we can best use them. These terms fit neatly into existing structures within the field and therefore should be easier to grasp and implement.
Placing digital objects and their needs within an existing framework for archives is a useful way to think of digital objects and collections moving forward. Not only are cultural institutions being inundated with born-digital materials, they are also creating their own via institutional records and digitization projects of any size. Users also expect access to digital records; we should work to fulfill tenets of our professions, providing access to our records and collections. Reforming the ways that we describe objects and collections to fit better into the digital world that our users expect to see will only help us towards these goals we should all have.
Do you think it is useful to consider digital objects as different, yet equally similar to physical collections?