On Material and Digital Archives

Digital artifacts from archival documents really benefit scholars a lot. By making digital artifacts, tremendous data are carefully categorized, which enables people to find the data they need by simply searching the key word instead of picking up the data from libraries that contain tons of data. For example, in Lincoln at 200, facts about Lincoln and his activities are carefully divided into different parts so that readers can easily study Lincoln.the perfect integration of image and context

Many archival documents are the only existing copies. If they are damaged or lost, we can hardly find ones that contain the same things with the one ruined. By making digital artifacts, these archival documents are never lost and people can read them at the same time instead of going to different places, even countries, to find useful materials.

However, there are also some disadvantages in digital artifacts. Reading an archival document is different from reading a digital artifact from the internet. An archival document can help us build up a strong emotional link with what we are reading, but digital artifact cannot. During the winter break, I went to a museum in which I saw some beautiful porcelains and I made some pictures for them. But when I went back and see these porcelains. I could not experience the feeling that I had when I was in the museum.

The exhibit I create is Moravian journals. When I create my own exhibit, what challenges most is that there are several pages of journals. All of them are Moravian journals. But some of them have different route and some of them are created at different time. The scribbled note is also a problem for me, they are hard to read.Moravian Journal · Stories of the Susquehanna Valley

On Material and Digital Archives: Old Info, New Medium.

Digitizing archival material comes with advantages and disadvantages; creating a large responsibility for the archivist.

Digitally cataloging historical information makes the material accessible. For example prior to the travel journals being published online, the only way one could read them would be by reading the actual journal. Now the contents are available online, so the information can be viewed and used by anyone. This helps, also, to protect the original documents from potentially being damaged by users. Inputing archives into databases allows information to be perused that could have otherwise been lost.

Another major advantage to having information on a digital platform is that it can be analyzed in new ways. Researchers are able to make visual representations of content to gain a deeper understanding of the material. Having a large amount of accessible data allows not only researchers and historian but everyone to gain a more complete understanding of a period in history.

Creating digital archives is becoming easier and nearly anyone is able to contribute. While this comes with many important advantages, there are undeniable downsides. One of which is the inevitable bias that comes with republishing work. By taking anything out of its original context alters the meaning of the work and skews how it is perceived by readers. Even just the way information is grouped, categorized, and framed impacts the way in which readers will come to understand it. Therefore archivists must be aware of the way they frame their work and display it to the world.

When making my own Stories of the Susquehanna Valley Omeka exhibit I found that, though technology has advanced and continues to improve everyday,  the system was not as efficient as it could have been. When trying to select images to include on each page there was not an easy way to search for the pictures I was looking for. In addition, many of the images were not in a descriptive way, lacking metadata, which did not accurately represent the content. However, overall I feel quite accomplished creating an exhibit of historical information as an undergraduate student. I was able to organize the pages of the exhibit ways that made sense to me. The Omeka website keeps track of those who post images and articles which provides credit for the work where credit is due.  The exhibits can be edited and added to at any point which allows it to evolve and grow. [http://ssv.omeka.bucknell.edu/omeka/exhibits/show/mostly-maryland]

This is the main page of my Mostly Maryland exhibit. On the right side, the pages are listed by category of maps.
This is the main page of my Mostly Maryland exhibit. On the right side, the pages are listed by category of maps.
This is an example of a page from my "Mostly Maryland" exhibit. This page focuses on maps of Maryland and Pennsylvania.
This is an example of a page from my “Mostly Maryland” exhibit. This page focuses on maps of Maryland and Pennsylvania.

On Material and Digital Archives

Digital artifacts created from archival documents provide advantages such as preservability, portability, and easy organization and accessibility. Digital artifacts won’t wear down from being analyzed by people because it is just digital image. The physical artifact may get damaged from being handled by many people. Digital artifacts do not take a long time to find. In online databases, a simple search will be enough to find an artifact, whereas physical artifacts may require traveling around the world to find it.

As a digital artifact, this is one map, but as a physical artifact, this is actually multiple different sheets of paper that have to be lined up next to each other.
As a digital artifact, this is one map, but as a physical artifact, this is actually multiple large sheets of paper that have to be lined up next to each other.

When an artifact is digital and in an online database, it is already organized into exhibits and categories and it never becomes unorganized. When someone analyzes many different physical artifacts, they may become very unorganized and difficult to find. The image on the left is a good example of an artifact that would be easier to analyze digitally than physically.

Disadvantages of digital artifacts might be that you don’t get to hold it and  feel what it feels like. When someone holds a physical artifact, for example an old map, they may feel a sentimental attachment to it because they are holding the same map that certain historical figures held, used, and wrote on in the past.

New Netherlands exhibit on Stories of the Susquehanna Omeka website.
New Netherlands exhibit on Stories of the Susquehanna Omeka website.

When making my Omeka Exhibit I found it challenging to find enough information about each individual artifact to write up a description about each one. The exhibit I created is called “New Netherlands” and it includes historical maps of the region.

Digital or not, Making your own choice

The cultural heritage is now taking digital form, whether born digital or born-again by conversion to digital from other media. The projects in the DH sample books website are categorized according to the DH methods used. From the left to right, there are seven categories: Archive, Visualization, Mapping, Digital edition, Network Analysis, Textual analysis and Audio analysis. Under different categories, each project focuses on one specific kind of information to demonstrate. Under “ Archives” category, the projects are trying to keep the originality of the data. In Old Weather website, we can see a photocopy of detailed records kept about weather in ships’ logs, which will give us theScreen Shot 2015-01-24 at 11.19.09 PM
information about climate change. In Database of Indigenous Peoples, we can see the original documents of the hand-written letter.

Our Humanities Now class is a project-based course that using digital tools and Screen Shot 2015-01-24 at 11.31.45 PMmethods of analysis. Creating digital artifacts offers unique advantages. First, information and content may be delivered directly to users and can be retrieved remotely. The flexibility of the digital material is another advantage. It’s easy to edit and print the data compared to the fixed paper and printed text. Moreover, digital artifacts own the ability to provide a large number of users’ access to unique collections’ material at the same time. By allowing a wider user to view digital artifacts of primary material, the utility of the collection increased. There also are some disadvantages of digitization. You will not have sense of touch that provided by a physical archive. Also, it’s hard to get any options to start a new archive after you finish using one. However, when you go through a library, you will see lots of options in front of you.

The exhibit I created is Maps of SusquehannaScreen Shot 2015-01-25 at 3.12.20 PMFor me, the biggest challenge to build my Omeka Exhibit was to choose a topic for my exhibit. When I browsed the items and collections, there were too many data and options showing on the screen. And after I chose the topic, it’s hard but really important to keep all my data added into my exhibit focuses on one specific kind of information. Also, it’s important to make my website clear and easy for readers to read.

Digital Artifact is a great invention? It depends.

Following the prompt on the WordPress, I went to the DH Sample Book website, where Archive, Visualization, Mapping, Digital edition, Network analysis, Textual analysis, and Audio analysis are seven different categories the archives fall under. Under Archive, I browsed the 3 projects, the OldWeather, Lincoln at 200 and Database of Indigenous Peoples in North America.

Since digital artifacts provide a tremendous network platform. On that platform, users can easily find the information they are looking for with the help of tags and metadata. In this case, a huge database is accessible to almost every user. The internet gathered all materials which shatter all over the world on the same website. Instead of taking the 15-or-more-hour flight to see the original archive, one now only need 1 second to get all related digital archives because tags and metadata grouped them together. Furthermore, since a lot of important archives are so antiquated and fragile that they are generally inaccessible to the public. With the help of digital technology, we can get one copy version in our laptop.  The digital artifact is also very important since it puts the images and context side by side to give readers a much more clear view of what is going on. the perfect integration of image and context

However, one disadvantage appears when we are looking at a digital document, like journals. As time passes, words on ancient archives became blurred and unrecognizable. With the pixel problems, scholars sometimes still need the actual archive for research study, although the digital version is provided online. “Old Weather” displays a photograph of a “logbook” from a ship that became trapped in ice. As the original document traced back to the late 19th century, the digital artifact gave us more difficulties to understand what it meant. A poor understanding of its meaning will directly lead to the failure of research study.  Logbook for the Jeannette

During this week, I found it is really hard to find one interesting title for my exhibit. I want to make my exhibit look colorful and attractive . In this case, I prefer to use portraits and oil paintings rather than maps and journals. However, due to the limited databases, I have to change my title frequently to make my images match the title.

Blog Post # 1

Blog #1: “On Material and Digital Archives”

Prompt: This week you have visited several websites that are based on archival materials.  Go to the DH project Sample book  and look at the projects that are categorized under Archive.  What are some of the advantages to creating a digital artifact from archival documents?  What are some of the disadvantages? What challenges did  you have as you built your Omeka Exhibit this week?  Include the URL of your exhibit in your blog post.

Reminder: give your post the category “Blog #1″; add two images to the post, and include five tags that you think reflect the work that you submit. Please review the Blog Assignment description and rubric and email me with any questions you may have.