Are Archives Doomed?
March 10th, 2006 · 4 Comments · Archives Access Systems, Collective Memory, Personal Digital Archives
The ominous title of the presentation “Are the Archives Doomed?” is in reference to the growing restrictions on access to archival materials that are due to copyright issues, restrictive archival practices or the poor use of available technology.
This is the link to the webcast provided by the University of Pittsburgh Mediasite.
If you are at all interested in open access, the management of archival institutions or recent trends in archives access you should take the hour to view this presentation.
There are no slides accompanying the presentation and I can’t find a transcript anywhere but here are a few juicy quotes from my own notes:
- “There’s something I call ‘archival privilege’…Archives used to be able to decide whom to serve and whose requests to ignore and that’s become dangerous behaviour. We used to try and often succeeded in framing the context in which archival material is used, to impose conditions on re-use, to demand credit for re-use and often to control the means by which archival material is represented and published.”
- “Copyright is for lawyers and archives are about preservation and access so I think we need to reclaim the higher ground about copyright…Archival access is being crippled by property laws that most of us had no role in making. Most of us were not part of the conversations that led to the enactment of present day copyright laws
- “I think we are not being Utopian enough, we are reactive. We react to things that people do in other fields. I think we need to think a lot more about where we would like the world of research, scholarship, education, and cultural production to be in the next few years…Just as musicians are sitting down with their fans to talk about what to do about these nasty file-sharing issues, I am wondering why archives users and donors don’t do the same thing?”
- “access means making it as simple and inexpensive for anyone, anywhere, anytime to access copies of works for the broadest possible array of purposes, and whenever possible, I think we should define access expansively and generously.”
- “I realize I am stating the obvious but I’m not sure that everybody in the world realizes that wonderful and unpredictable things happen when ordinary people are given access to primary materials.”
- “I don’t see us [archives] coming to terms with technology. This is not a critical statement, it is a wake-up call. I think we need to push much harder in welcoming technology to our workflows and into the relations between archives and our patrons.”
- “Archives generally consume technology, rather than create it…Archives tend to delegate their technology needs to outside parties…Archives have major unmet technology needs…We don’t have the money. This would tend to favour the development of open-source software. With a few exceptions we are primarily purchasing packages. Imagine a different world. Who couldn’t use an open-source media management system? or a set of open-source DRM tools? or open-source tools to extract structural metadata or to do OCR?…This is where the state-of-the-art activity should be happening.”