A whole issue of the journal SocialText on “The Question of Recovery: Slavery, Freedom, and the Archive.” I expect that will yield a lot of good fodder for my topic. Table of contents here: http://socialtext.dukejournals.org/content/33/4_125.toc.pdf.
This is relevant to the “backlogs=silences” line of thought, but I’m noting it mostly because I like it. The Wellcome Library had a not-very-well cataloged collection of books.
For years, a project to label and fully catalogue all 55,000 books, although helpful in retrieving requested books, remained a low priority – something of a luxury. The prospect of digitisation provided the extra impetus to push this project to the top of our to-do-list. In order to digitise we needed to accurately identify and locate the books and transport them around the building to and from the digitisation suite. Once digitised the items needed to be matched to the relevant metadata (in the Library catalogue records) for online discovery.
So, in the course of getting the books ready for digitization, “195 missing books were rediscovered and an additional 1537 books we didn’t know we had were added to the Library catalogue.”
This comes up frequently among my college and university archivist friends: those crazy kids today do everything online. No paper records to eventually find their way to archives. So if you want to get documentation on student activities, you better find a way to grab their online products now, before they disappear. Some archivists I know (and love) aren’t bothering to do this, and that bothers me. Here’s a case study of how NYU is doing it. (Note: I haven’t read it yet.)
Quidditch, Zombies and the Cheese Club: A Case Study in Archiving Web Presence of Student Groups at New York University by Aleksandr Gelfand
This comes up repeatedly, at least for me. In our current environment, for many people if it’s not online, it might as well not exist. Here we have a great project, creating an “archive” and an exhibit of “U.S. homophile magazine references to various regions of the world in the 1950s and 1960s.” The collection “features annotated bibliographies, digitized materials and more than 1,000 items — including photos, letters to the editor, op-eds, feature stories, news stories and advertisements — from Africa; Asia and the Pacific; Canada; Latin America and the Caribbean; the Middle East; and Russia, the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.”
So, a great project, an interesting collection, not exactly what I would call an archive, but I’ve written about that as much as I care to. I’m not this as a possible example of the importance of getting materials online to fill a modern version of an archival silence.
Link to article: http://news.sfsu.edu/news-story/lgbt-history-project-inspires-new-online-archive
Link to collection: http://www.outhistory.org/exhibits/show/us-homophile/stein-intro
Periodically we see media stories like the one below, heralding a collection that captures or conveys some aspect of the past that we don’t normally see–in this case, early images in color. Collections that convey things like the sounds, textures, and even the smells of the past help fill silences, don’t you think? Another topic for the future.
This article is too short, but is a good reminder to include this important point (and story, if I can find more). The title sums it up: “How a Nearly Successful Slave Revolt Was Intentionally Lost to History”:
Official accounts at the time spun the fiction that the revolt was nearly a band of “‘brigands’ out to pillage and plunder,” writes Wendell Hassan Marsh for The Root. But this was the story of the victors— Rasmussen found through the course of his research, not the story of what happened. In reality, the revolt was carefully organized and it threatened to destabilize the institution of slavery in Louisiana.
To uncover the real story, Rasmussen pored through court records and plantation ledgers. “I realized that the revolt had been much larger—and come much closer to succeeding—than the planters and American officials let on,” he tells Littice Bacon-Blood of the Times-Picayune. “Contrary to their letters, which are the basis for most accounts of the revolt, the slave army posed an existential threat to white control over the city of New Orleans.”
What gets kept and why in corporate archives would be a very interesting chapter for the book. Here’s an article on a relatively new effort at Cisco:
“We realized we had a lot of stuff relating to Cisco history and we should take good care of it and respect it,” explains Mike Sanchez, a Cisco senior manager who develops employee-based brand experiences and is involved with the Cisco Archive. “We also think that collecting and categorizing this stuff will reveal significant things about Cisco’s culture, like good archaeology does.”