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Posts from the ‘book history’ Category

Review: “Media in the Archives: Libraries, Popular Culture, and the Digital” Panel Discussion

October 18th, 2013

Kimberly Hall

by Sarah Lozier

On October 17th, 2013 I had the opportunity to attend a panel discussion hosted by UCR’s History Department on the topic of Media in the Archives. In general, the panelists described various forms that archival work can take, whether one is working in an academically-supported research archives like the Huntington, a corporate pop-cultural exhibition-supported archived like that of NBCUniversal, or a digitized archive of material documents like the California Digital Newspaper Collection (CDNC).  Given the range of archives presented, it is no surprise that there were many different strategies for navigating the challenges and perks of archival work.  What was perhaps, more surprising, was that there were nearly as many similarities as differences presented, particularly among theoretical axes of authenticity and originality. Here, however, I’d like to focus on one archival issue in particular that did not get much attention, but that can be particularly provocative when material and digital cultures and archives collide—the issue of the User.

The User did enter the conversation yesterday when Brian Geiger described the invaluable role of the untrained, amateur user to correct errors in the text that occur in the digitization process due to the limits of computer-based text recognition.  Dr. Geiger pointed out that allowing these amateur users this level of access to affect and change the archival material is a bittersweet affair. On the one hand, it frees up the trained, degree-holding archivists to spend time on work that requires the specialist’s hand; while at the same time potentially expediting the digitization process, and with fewer mistakes, due to an increased human labor force. (This introduces the problem never far from DH labor discussions of Crowd-Sourcing, but that is best saved for another post).  On the other hand, the CNDC is still an institutionally accredited archive, and there are very real possibilities that this untrained labor force is introducing as many (if not more damaging) errors to the archival materials than the computer.  Indeed, the untrained user could only get this kind of access to a digital archive; the very notion would be unthinkable for a material and physical archive like the Huntington or NBCUniversal’s Archives, where the “user” is either a trained researcher operating under the watchful eye of the archivist, or a spectator who is encouraged to Look-Don’t-Touch.

So who is the archive’s User?  What does it mean to really use an archive?  Can using be limited to accessing? Or can it be expanded to include interacting, as in the shift of replacing “reader” with “user” in conversations about e-Lit? What are the stakes and potential effects of this conceptual expansion, particularly given the slippery place of labor in accessing, using, and interacting? Are we, the institutionally-supported and access-granted DH scholars, the Privileged Users, willing to support this?


BAM Colloquium this Friday

June 4th, 2013

Steve Anderson

Please join us for the Year-End Colloquium for Graduate Students in “BAM.”

Designated Emphasis in Book, Archive, and Manuscript Studies –

Friday, June 7, 10:00am to Noon

English Department Conference Room (HMNSS 2212)

Presentations by Steve Anderson, Cori Knight, and Heather Van Mouwerik

Display of printshop projects by Rebecca Addicks, Ann Garascia, Cori Knight, Jessica Roberson, and Anne Sullivan

This will also be a celebration of the new Mellon Workshop Grant awarded to the Material Cultures of the Book Working Group –