The Accessibility of Archives

Archives are created by institutions. Ones with budgets and professors who have spent hours of their lives to create these archives. They find a subject and compile all available information into one place so that all can appreciate the material. “The archive preserves and reserves, protects and patrols, regulates and represses. The architecture of the archive and the sentinels who control access to its interior suggest that the conservation and transmission of knowledge has been, at least historically, the prerogative of a few chosen agents, of a coterie of privileged insiders.”

Every archive we were presented with had a different subject matter, set up, and regulator. But even with all of these differences all of the archives were available to everyone. From what I could tell there wasn’t an elitist aspect that barred some individuals from utilizing the resource. Yes, those outside of academia would have no use for the Forget Me Not: a hypertexual archive of Ackermann’s 19th C. Literary Annuals but they were still available to them. The only thing required was an understanding of how to navigate the archive which many of them provided. Archives are constantly evolving but their purpose is the same. Archives are put together to bring information into one place and this ability to streamline the search for information is present in all of these archives.

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2 thoughts on “The Accessibility of Archives

  1. I am a supporter of this type of archive meant for academic purposes, but my problem with them lies not in the archive itself, but the fact that the masters of the archive “preserves and reserves, protects and patrols, regulates and represses” the information within it. I immediately focused in on the word “represses” and began thinking why there was that one negative connotation in the list of positive aspects. The archive owner decides what information gets placed in the archive, so it is possible that, either through human error or intentional choice, some crucial texts would be left out of the archive. That and the private manner in which it was created means that there is not enough manpower or resources to create and maintain a vast archive that may be needed for the subject. The people that know of its existence and can access it will also be much smaller than one created by a public corporation.

    Google is undergoing a project to archive all literature in the world, which means that it will be less likely to be flawed in this manner, but the problem with that lies in its size. Due to the vast size of the archive being assembled, a large amount of manpower and computing power will be needed to assemble it. Another problem with such a huge archive would be sorting. With a smaller archive all centered around one topic of study, there is really no need to diversify and categorize the contents into searchable labels, but with an archive like Google is creating, it becomes necessary to add labels and categories to each individual work, which presents the problem of how many categories and labels is too many. Archives are a great way to store and search for information, but each one has its own flaws and benefits. In spite of that, with the vast number of archives available for every situation, the user should be able to find an archive that will suit their needs.

  2. With all the talk on what we loose with digital archives (and make no mistake, we do loose things), accessibility is probably the biggest gain. With the advent of computers, people could enter in archival scans and tags and use search algorithms to, as you said, “streamline” the search process. Then when the World Wide Web came around, you didn’t even have to go out of your house! And not just archiving digital scans of physical books. Google is one of the biggest archives of them all, housing links (instead of actual documents) to more webpages than one can possibly imagine.

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