Web 2.0 has allowed for millions of websites to be developed by the smallest groups of people. Any digital humanities project has a team of experts, researchers, writers and designers. Digital archives contain large amounts of scholarly, accurate data online, and web 2.0 allows these archives are used for research and study all over the world. Although this is true, the context of what constitutes an “archive” is broadening due to the lack of understanding and appreciation for the fundamental necessities that make up an archive.
Digital humanities scholar Kate Theimer believes that the idea of an archive being scholarly and accurate is being tainted by unsourced material and the lack of “the fundamental principles that separate traditional archives from many of the collections created by digital humanists.”(Theimer) People are losing sight of the fundamental principles that make up an archive: provenance, collective control and and preserving original context. (Theimer) With web domains costing as low as $12.00 annually, any novice can create an archive, tarnishing it with false, unsourced information and minimum control over the web page’s information. Although this is true, some web archives, like the Dickinson Electronic Archives, do stick to these three principles and keep the idea of a true, scholarly digital archive intact.
The Dickinson Electronic Archives are a “creative and critical collaboratory for reading Dickinson’s material bodies and for featuring new critical and theoretical work about Emily Dickinson’s writings, biography, reception, and influence”(DEA). This DEA is a scholarly, respectable archive that showcases the ability for digital humanitists to collaborate with one another and explore the potential “to reveal new interpretive material, cultural, historical, and theoretical contexts”(DEA). Theimer’s term provenance, referring to an objects history and creation, is clearly present in the Dickinson Archives. The archive has hundreds of Dickinson’s essays and writings within digital exhibitions of Dickinson’s legacy. Theimer’s second fundamental principle of an archive, collective control, is also clearly present in the Dickinson archive. The site’s “About” page explains that their editorial board is comprised of Dickinson scholars, textual scholars, social and cultural historians, poets and artists. This devoted team constantly checks over one another’s work, making sure that the archive contains only sourced, scholarly, edited information. Finally, the third fundamental principle, preserving original context, is clearly highlighted throughout the archive. The archive contains a large collection of “manuscripts, transcripts, critical editions, critical engagements, and virtual classrooms”(DEA). The site also contains a forum where users can contribute, which offers an open space for creative and critical engagement.
While some archives are tainting the weight of the word “archive” with Web 2.0’s cheap web domain costs and the web being such a vast and broad space, there are still archives out there that contain historical, scholarly, sourced material and can be used for research and collaboration. The Dickinson Electronic Archives highlights provenance and collective control, and preserves the original context with a team of dedicated scholars, historians, editors, poets and artists, fulfilling all of Kate Theimer’s fundamental principles of what makes up a legitimate “archive.” Archives like the DEA work to dispel the idea that the word “archive” is losing value due to digital humanitists losing sight of the understanding and appreciation of the historical context.