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Author: Vivien E. Zazzau
Title: Transforming Archives through Information Technologies: A Bibliography
Publication info: Ann Arbor, MI: MPublishing, University of Michigan Library
December 2007

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Source: Transforming Archives through Information Technologies: A Bibliography
Vivien E. Zazzau

vol. 10, no. 3, December 2007
Article Type: Article

Transforming Archives through Information Technologies: A Bibliography

Vivien E. Zazzau

User Education/Reference Librarian
University at Albany, State University of New York
Albany, NY 12222

.00 Abstract

Today, as digital information storage, access and retrieval technologies are becoming the expected norm, there is a wealth of research literature appearing about such technologies and the role of archives and archivists in helping researchers find and use historic materials they need. Archivists and historians are necessarily research partners. This bibliography of 212 articles addresses the intersection of archives and digital technologies. Drawing from a set of international locations, the resources address issues of theory, policy, preservation, standards, access and technology, creating a rich collection of resources for those interesting in understanding and using archival materials.

.01 Archivists, Historians and Digital Technologies

There were many who thought that the twenty-first century would never arrive for archives. Dusty books, delicate artifacts, and crumbling correspondence surely have no place in the modern age. Digitization would supposedly render these items obsolete, just as microforms, once a new technology, are now a technology pariah. Archives embrace new technologies and not only survive, but thrive and continue to offer inestimable benefits to all, including historians who use archival materials as the evidence for their scholarly work. Just as archives continue to reinvent themselves, technology, too, reinvents itself and leads us to reexamine and redefine what we mean by technology. It is much more than the mechanistic hum of a hard drive, or setting the optimum temperature for film in cold storage. In archives today, technology refers to standards such as Encoded Archival Description (EAD), the creation of digital records, the preservation and translation of those same digital records, and even the use of blogs and wikis.

One of the most important factors in the changing face of archives has been the Internet. Archivists must deal with patrons who expect full service, no later than yesterday, over the telephone and via email and instant messaging. No one wants to visit the physical archives when "everything is already online" (or "should" be), and there is very little understanding for partial online access because of a lack of understanding of the time, expense, and mechanics of digitization. So, even if archivists did not embrace technology on their own, they would have no choice because technologies, particularly information technologies, are transforming the way that people do research and interact with research institutions. Despite this progress, it is important to remember that technology in archives, just as anywhere else, has not been a fully positive experience. Cox (2005) writes, "At the least, we recognize that the new information technologies of the past decade have transformed American governance and society, with extremely mixed results, both increasing access to more information about our government, institutions, and society while simultaneously making some aspects of our lives much more difficult than ever before" (p. 206). This bibliography lists works that explore the immense technological changes that have taken place in archives of various types over the past four decades, particularly with respect to information technologies.

.02. Bibliographic Details

This work contains 212 citations. The earliest publication in this selection is from 1975, and the latest, 2007. Many of these items were available online to the author, but this was because she had institutional authentication. As a result, these items are cited only as their print counterpart. Those items that are freely available online include a URL.

It was not until the late 1920s and early 1930s that archival science began to be seen as a true science in the United States. As such, the archival literature is quite young. And of course, the American tradition has been greatly influenced by the older traditions of Great Britain. The majority of items come from Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. Although every effort has been made to include information on archives in Third World countries, there are more articles addressing libraries than archives in Third World countries. Libraries are more common in these countries than archives, probably because they do not face, to the same degree, the conservational and environmental challenges faced by archives in tropical environments.

.03. Archives in the Third World

While it was not difficult to find articles on archives and technology, it was difficult to find articles, particularly current ones, addressing technology in Third World Archives. Assistance to Third World nations has been a significant part of America's archival history. Much of the extant literature focuses on the need for proper training of archives personnel in Third World countries. "In the Third World countries, the problem of archival education and training are frequently compounded by the number of archivists with the necessary qualifications who leave the profession for related fields that have a higher recognition and pay higher salaries" (Evans 1987). The difference between the Third World and the developed nations' needs is quite apparent. Developed countries write about their own technological problems and progress; Third World countries are more often just written about by developed countries. Rainer writes, "UNESCO, among others, has expressed concern that a person goes back to his country overqualified for the job in hand, and as a result will quickly move out of the job for which he has been trained" (Phonographic Bulletin, 1986, 20). Rainer concludes "One possible solution...of this problem is to demand that the trainee serve a bond of so many years on return to his country in the job for which he has received training..."(20). Exactly how such a contractual agreement could be negotiated, much less "demanded" is not clear. Furthermore, requiring Third World trainees to serve a bond seems quite offensive, not to mention ironic, from an historical perspective. Nonetheless, one cannot ignore the fact that Rainer, then-chairman of the IASA (International Association of Sound & Audiovisual Archives) Training Committee, most likely expressed this point of view because of his acute awareness of the desperate circumstances of so many libraries and archives in the Third World. The UNESCO website, with its special reports, offers some of the most current information on the status of archives in Third World countries. The IASA (International Association of Sound & Audiovisual Archives) website also provides information on Third World progress in archives management. Hopefully, more interest in working with Third World archives will be kindled among students and archivists from developed nations as the acute danger of loss of indigenous collections and histories remains a serious threat.

.04. Archives Defined

This author originally intended that the term "archives" would refer to physical archives. Nonetheless, digital archives, which can be anything from an independent entity to a digital project spawned by a physical archives, are also addressed in this bibliography. Because archivists are hired, even often preferred, for electronic records management positions, the archiving of electronic records, as well as their preservation and eventual migration are also relevant asides from the physical archives. The articles, "The Automation of the Parliamentary Archives" (Shenton 2006) and "Digital Imaging and Optical Storage Technology Helps Open Up Railway Archives at National Railway Museum" (Digital Imaging 1993) explore how archives are improving their services with information technology. Several articles address the automation of archives (Michelson 1987, Allen 1988, Gildemeister 1988, Shenton 2006) and provide information on college, university (Brown and Yakel, 1996), state, and national archives (Carlin 2004, Honan 1995). Additionally, special collections and other types of institutional repositories, such as the aforementioned Railway Archives at the National Railway Museum are examined. As different as all these environments might be, the common denominators are always preservation and access.

.05. Technology Defined

Archives use many different types of technology. This paper does not address the technologies of archival disaster-preparedness or recovery, but rather those of information technology (Dollar 2004). This includes preservation and management of electronic records (Bantin 1998, MacNeil 2000, Cloonan and Shelby 2002) and social software (Griffin 2007, Smith 2007, Jones 2005). The Internet (Pitti 2001, Yakel 2003) and the World Wide Web (Piche 1998, McCarthy 1999, Senecal 2005) are also technologies that have affected archives in significant ways, as well as electronic mail with respect to reference service and formal correspondence (Nowicke 1988, Duff 2001). More recently, information technologies from XML to Encoded Archival Description (EAD) (Fox 1997, Kiesling 1997, Burrows 2002, Dack 2002) have helped to revolutionize the way archives and special collections present their collections (Watson and Graham 1998). Just as significant are the older technologies that are still in use. Microfilming is one example of an older technology still in use today (Kerns 1988, Gertz 1990), as is photocopying (Weber 1993) and Optical Character Recognition (OCR) (Allen 1987). Other older technologies are punch cards (Adams 1995), audio re-recording (Paton 1998), photocopying and mechanical copying (Rhodes and Streeter 1999). Consequently, especially when looking at the intersection of history and the archival sciences, it is necessary to recognize that "technology" refers not only to that which is new, but also to that which is older and still useful. Just as the garden hoe is no longer a new technology, but is still useful today, many older tools and processes remain useful in archives. They remain at the interesting junction of using new technologies to make accessible those items that are old, unique, and critical to the understanding of our past.

.06. The Bibliography

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Alldis, Duncan. 2005, Oct./Dec. "Has Your E-mail Reached Boiling Point? Will Your Archiving System Soon Blow its Top?" Information Management and Technology 38(4): 179-180.

Allen, Marie. 1987, Winter. "Optical Character Recognition: Technology with New Relevance for Archival Automation Projects." The American Archivist 50(1): 88-99.

Ambacher, Bruce I. (Editor). 2003. Thirty Years of Electronic Records. Lanham, MD: The Scarecrow Press.

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Baldwin, Betsey. 2006, Fall. "Confronting Computers: Debates about Computers at the PublicArchives of Canada During the 1960s." Archivaria 62, 159-178.

Bantin, Philip C. 1998. "Strategies for Managing Electronic Records: A New Archival Paradigm? An Affirmation of Our Archival Traditions?" Archival Issues: Journal of the Midwest Archives Conference 23(1): 17-34.

Barata, K. 2004, April. "Archives in the Digital Age." Journal of the Society of Archivists 25(1), 63-70.

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