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

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.