What makes an Archive?

Through looking on the various archives listed, MITH’s Vintage Computers in particular, it became very apparent that without some kind of structure or classification all properties that one would consider an “archive” cease to be effective/exist. When browsing through the content of an archive, I was able to identify a certain hierarchy and tagging system. There were subsets within subsets that classified content into easily manageable, easily accessible, pieces of information. This gets back to the idea of indexing, and how it is a vital attribute to anything considered an archive. Without an active index and tagging system, I could look at the same information and take away nothing of value. Applying this concept in other settings, it made me question what exactly makes an archive an archive. Is it the shell in which content is housed? Is it the content itself?

If you have a library with no books, and no system of organization, all you have is any empty building. If you consider the content itself to make an archive, this would mean as soon as you fill the building with books it now becomes an archive. But what if you have a collection of books sitting in the sidewalk? What is the archive now? When I think about archiving in this sense, it makes it very apparent that the system of organizational is the primary contributor to the archival properties.


2 thoughts on “What makes an Archive?

  1. Archives have become very influential in the twentieth century. People are looking for ways to store important information. One example is history. Organization is important in order to access information in the easiest way possible. Information about history should always be in chronological order. This is most helpful for the reader and accuracy. I do agree with you that organization is one of the bases for archives to exist. Without organization reaching proper/effective information would be hard or unattainable. Most of the databases are extensive. Without a proper index, the reader would have to spend hours just to attain proper information. Organization is key according to The Rossetti Archive.

    ”Completed in 2008 to the plan laid out in 1993, the Archive provides students and scholars with access to all of DGR’s pictorial and textual works and to a large contextual corpus of materials, most drawn from the period when DGR’s work first appeared and established its reputation (approximately 1848-1920), but some stretching back to the 14th-century sources of his Italian translations. All documents are encoded for structured search and analysis.” (Rossetti)

    Works Cited:

    Kevin Kim.

  2. Like many of the subjects we’ve tackled this month, archive seems to enjoy a slippery definition, or at the very least the ability to very easily be stripped of its identity. Your examples of a library without books and books on the sidewalk are good examples of this, I feel.

    I would personally consider an archive any source of multiple sources of information, if that makes sense. While we try and work out a more concrete definition, I personally find it simple to visualize a collection of knowledge. The form of this knowledge and how much of it is available ultimately becomes somewhat inconsequential. We should free ourselves of the stereotyped images libraries and physical manifestations of knowledge create, as it is not the library that has knowledge, rather it is the codex within it.

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