The line between historians and archivists needs to be blurred

By knoblej

One continuing theme in our readings for this week, implicitly if not explicitly, is the need for humanities scholars to take a more active role in archiving, curating, collecting, and providing access to documents and information in the digital age. Established practices by which we allowed archives and libraries to do their thing so that we could thank them profusely in the acknowledgements will not be sufficient in a world in which more and more content is born digital and disappears before any institution or organization has a chance to save it. As Cohen and Rosenzweig point out, digital sources are ephemeral and “original” digital sources are only as permanent as the wait between edits. 

The reading on digital forensics began with a discussion of how the field of forensics is rooted in criminal justice, but much of the article discusses archival concepts such as fonds, provenance, the manuscript-based field of diplomatics, and so forth. In fact, the authors argue that there is a connection between forensics and archival work (9).

Therefore, the idea that researchers and scholars might need to be more proactive about storing and archiving their own work and then working collectively to provide access is one option which accounts for the very real technical concerns as well as the logistics of getting cooperation.

Alison Babou makes the provocative point that archaeologists might be especially apt to adopt such practices when she notes that “Since archaeological sites are typically destroyed during an excavation, scholars highlighted the need to be very meticulous in recording all the necessary information about data and also revealed that a great deal of “dark data” from excavations never makes it to final publication .” (67). Archaeologists have been dealing with the ephemeral nature of “primary sources” for a long time; they might be well suited for
Source: Kirk Johnson  

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