Archival Management

Identifying Worthwhile Archival Projects

Identifying Worthwhile Archival Projects

The most vital aspect of managing a successful archival project is identifying the right problem to be solved. In the cultural heritage sector, too many excellent exciting projects exist, but limited resources hamper seeing them to fruition. Archivists should prioritize projects that add value to the organization.

Projects should reduce costs, expand services, or increase efficiency—and be linked to these objectives from start to finish. Archivists must change their mindset from simply completing a project to strategically implementing the project with business objectives in mind.

Archives Collection-Level Description: Pros & Cons

Archives Collection-Level Description: Pros & Cons

Although some archivists debate the necessity for item-level access, it is often more challenging to describe images in the aggregate. Collection-level description can be useful for images of the same subject, but problematic for collections with a variety of subjects, as it neither improves retrieval nor limits the handling of the originals. Group arrangement and description are necessary for large collections or when resources are limited.

Archives & Item-Level Description: An Integrated Approach

Archives & Item-Level Description: An Integrated Approach

Traditionally, archivists have dismissed arrangement at the item level as having little utility and being impractical for modern collections. However, archival surveys conducted over the years have found that a significant proportion of archivists have adhered to item-level description—even though it is contrary to the traditional archival practice of collection-level description. The same discrepancy between literature and practice appears to be true for visual collections.

The Current State of Description for Archives

The Current State of Description for Archives

In July 1945, Atlantic Monthly published “As We May Think,” by army scientist Vannevar Bush, an essay that had an immense influence on the history of computing. Bush was concerned about the explosion of information without a means to quickly retrieve data.

The article described a device called a Memex, an intuitive, associative retrieval system designed to supplement memory. He envisioned a desk with screens that would allow users to view documents, add notes, and create associations through a body of work.

The Memex was a conceptual ancestor to electronically linked materials and, ultimately, the Internet. Bush’s ideas were expanded by Theodor Nelson who, in 1961, coined hypertext and hypermedia to describe the environment where text, images, and video could be digitally interconnected.

Metadata for Archival Collections: Challenges and Opportunities

Metadata for Archival Collections: Challenges and Opportunities

Metadata is one of the significant costs of digitization. Although archival items can be digitized without cataloging, a digital collection cannot be created and delivered without metadata.

Providing sufficient metadata promptly for the abundance of digital resources can create a bottleneck in a workflow. Creating and maintaining metadata about objects—and in particular digital information objects—is time consuming and costly. Metadata creators must provide enough information to be useful but cannot afford to be exhaustive.

Image Description Practices for Digital Archives Projects

Image Description Practices for Digital Archives Projects

Formal standards, such as Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS), Graphic Materials, and Rules for Archival Description (RAD), have been developed over time for the description of archival materials. While descriptive standards offer consistency, archival repositories employ descriptive systems suited to their holdings, not universal access, and description continues to be idiosyncratic.