Friday, 18 July 2008

Is Web 2.0 really for Archivists?

Having explained a bit about the kinds of technologies that Web 2.0 offers and shown how they are being used in archives I think that it is possible for archivists to engage with Web 2.0 and they will benefit from doing so.

So I don't think that many people would argue that the prospect of engaging with Web 2.0 is an impossible task for archives. However, there is of course an argument that archivists are busy people and simply don't have the time to be playing around with new technologies. Web 2.0 is not part of their job description and is not something that users necessarily want.

It is for individuals to decide whether they have the time to experiment but I think we should consider that there is much commonality in the purposes of an archive and Web 2.0. We might think of Web 2.0 applications as being frivolous and about having fun on the Internet but they have more serious purposes that mirror some of what an archive is about. Archives, as well as museums and libraries, act as repositories of information and all have a purpose to enable access to that information when required. In an increasingly fast-paced online world, Web 2.0 is providing more efficient ways of accessing existing information and innovative methods of creating and sharing new information. So its not such an alien concept after all.

Monday, 14 July 2008

Photographs - an addendum

Of course there are other ways to share photos apart from flickr and these are some examples of web sites that host photographic collections:

Thursday, 10 July 2008


I should really have given this post a generic title about sharing images but I chose flickr as it has become so popular and while its not reached the stage of becoming a verb like Google it is arguably the best known of the many online photo management and sharing tools.

Flickr is also the web site that many archives and also museums have chosen to host their images on. It offers unlimited uploads and collections with its pro account for £13/$25 a year and photographs can be licensed under the creative commons to provide some copyright management when required.

The benefit of having your photographic collection hosted on flickr is that it can allow users to participate in the descriptive process by adding comments to individual photos. This allows archivists to obtain detailed and informed descriptions of their collections that they themselves might not not have the knowledge or time to produce.

Whether your archive can make use of flickr depends on your collections and copyright issues. Some examples of archives using flickr are:

It can also be used to collect images, as these examples show:

Thursday, 3 July 2008


Wikis are great because while they allow you to add information to existing content like tagging does but they also allow to create and upload new information to web pages.

Many people are already familiar with wikis, perhaps through using wikipedia but to clarify the dictionary definition of a wiki is that it is "a type of web page designed so that its content can be edited by anyone who accesses it." As wikipedia has shown this technology is a great help to any collaborative working project and the concept seems to suit an encyclopedia format and there is an archival equivilant of wikipedia called archivopedia. For archivists it has also been used for professional purposes at some conferences, where it allows many attendees to comment on particular presentations or provide information about the location.

The most exciting aspect of using wikis in an archive is that it can allow an organisation to formally capture user knowledge about their collections in a way that can compliment existing official finding tools. At present, archival repository wikis are not as popular as blogs but there are some good examples out there. The TNA in particular has been very willing to engage with new technologies when developing its Your Archives wiki, which was "designed to allow users to contribute their own knowledge of the National Archives’ collections in an open forum."

Your Archives has lots of information about how to use the wiki and also suggestions about what kind of information users could contribute such as transcriptions of documents available on the DocumentsOnline resource, expanding existing catalogue entries and editing research guides. It is also made very clear that the TNA will not check and verify entries, instead it is up to the wiki community to report offensive or incorrect entries. This helps address the issue of whether to trust information published in a wiki and also builds on the general principle that information is published and wikis are built on a notion of trust and self-regulation.

Other examples of wikis for archives include:

Archivists can also consider working with existing wikis, such as Wikipedia and linking to their resources from relevant articles on certain subjects. For example, if you have a collection of papers from a particular person why not add a link to that person's Wikipedia article to your archive? An article in D-Lib discusses how the University of Washington added links to Wikipedia articles to improve access to their digital collections.

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