Digital History Practicum: Digital Archives

For our practicum this week, we’re looking at four digital archives to go along with the readings about digital archival practices. 

9/11 Digital Archive

This archive was created with help from New York institutions like CUNY and the Alfred P. Sloan foundation, as well as the Roy Rosensweig Center for History and New Media. It was created shortly after 9/11 and was accepted for preservation by the Library of Congress in 2003. While it has been updated a few times since, it definitely seems outdated compared to other things we see on the internet today. Here is a quick overview:

  • As you can see from the above image, When you first look at “items,” it is just a list of everything in the archive with no real way to filter it.
  • They have featured collections that include still images, scanned documents, and video testimonies. This at least helps to group things together.
  • The search function can be helpful, but you really need to know what you’re looking for. There is no advanced search option, only sorting the search. 
  • There isn’t a lot of information or metadata for a lot of the items so some things are definitely missed. 
  • Only images have a preview with the search function, as you can see here:

Overall, it’s a really great repository, but it’s maybe not the easiest resource for research.

Bracero History Archive

This archive is also part of the Center for History and New Media, along with NMAH, Brown University, and UT El Paso. It is dedicated to collecting oral histories and artifacts related to the Bracero program. Because people in the community contribute to it, a lot of items don’t follow the best practices. Some things about the archive:

  • It offers a video tutorial for navigating the archive and conducting oral histories, which make it user friendly. It also has a lot of great teaching resources and suggested reading.
  • The search function does not work super well. There is an advanced search option, but that depends on information being filled in on the items. Also, once it brings up search results, you can’t sort them.
  • Oral histories don’t always have transcripts or metadata.

It is a good archive to browse and learn. It can be a really good teaching tool. 

Shelley-Godwin Archive

This is an archive of select manuscripts of the Woolstonecraft/Godwin/Shelley family of writers. It has a lot of university partners as well as the Victoria and Albert Museum. It is useful for the very specific purpose of analyzing the writing process. 

  • The archive has an introductory video for that shows you how to navigate.
  • It has manuscripts and transcriptions to track the drafts of Frankenstein, among other works. The image below is an example of what it looks like.
    • However, some are just images of the manuscripts with no transcript.
  • You can go page by page and read the manuscripts and see where changes were made.
  • Each of the works has a detailed description and includes a lot of metadata.
  • There is currently no search function.

I think this is a really fun tool to play with, and can be a good teaching tool, but may be difficult for research.

Rosetti Archive

Like the Shelley-Godwin Archive, it preserves the complete writings of Dante Gabriel Rosetti, a 19th century Italian poet and artist. It is run by the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities at UVA. 

  • You can sort alphabetically or chronologically, and there is a timeline view of  his work, as seen above.  
  • For each item there is context and description of the work. They include a lot of metadata that make things easy to find.
  • The archive is kind of hard to navigate and involves a lot of clicking and scrolling. It also keeps opening new tabs.
    • The manuscripts are sorted by individual page, which makes them hard to read.
  • Search has a lot of categories and can be very helpful when looking for specifics. However, you can’t sort or filter the results.

Again, this can be very interesting for a Rosetti scholar and as a way to get an overview of his works. 

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