Determining the value of a Digital Archive. The Framework for the 'Archive–As–Is'

Ann Öhrberg, Tim Berndtsson, Otto Fischer, Annie Mattson (eds.), From Dust to Dawn. Archival Studies after the Archival Turn, University of Uppsala, Uppsala. Studia Rhetorica Upsaliensia/Uppsala Rhetorical Studies, Vol. 8, pp. 56-101, 2021. ISBN 978-91-980081-5-9. ISSN 1102-9714

28 Pages Posted: 14 Apr 2022

See all articles by Geert-Jan Van Bussel

Geert-Jan Van Bussel

Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences; Van Bussel Document Services

Date Written: February 1, 2021

Abstract

Archives are, more than ever, organizational and technological constructs, based on organizational demands, desires, and considerations influencing configuration, management, appraisal, and preservation. For that reason, they are, more than ever, distortions of reality, offering biased (and/or manipulated) images of the past and present an extremely simplified mirror of social reality. The information objects within that archive are (again: more than ever), fragile, manipulable, of disputable provenance, doubtful context, and uncertain quality. Their authenticity is in jeopardy.

The “Allure of Digital Archives” will be more about finding knowledge about the archive as a whole than about finding knowledge hidden in the information objects that are its constituents. It will be about determining the value of a digital archive as a “trusted” resource for historical research.

To be successful in that endeavour, it will be necessary to assess the possibility to “reconstruct the past” of the digital archive. That assessment would allow historians to understand quality, provenance, context, content, and accessibility of the digital archive, not only in its design stage but also in its life cycle.

In this chapter, I present the theoretical framework of the “Archive–as–Is” as an instrument for such an assessment. It is possible for historians to use this framework as a declarative model for the way archives have been designed, configured, managed, and maintained. It will allow historians to understand why archives are as they are, and why records are part of it (or not). Using the framework, historians can determine the research value of a digital archive as a historical resource.

Keywords: Digital Archives, Historical research, Archives, Source Assessment

JEL Classification: N01

Suggested Citation

Van Bussel, Geert-Jan, Determining the value of a Digital Archive. The Framework for the 'Archive–As–Is' (February 1, 2021). Ann Öhrberg, Tim Berndtsson, Otto Fischer, Annie Mattson (eds.), From Dust to Dawn. Archival Studies after the Archival Turn, University of Uppsala, Uppsala. Studia Rhetorica Upsaliensia/Uppsala Rhetorical Studies, Vol. 8, pp. 56-101, 2021. ISBN 978-91-980081-5-9. ISSN 1102-9714, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4048609

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