Thursday, December 18, 2008

New Gen-Archivaria

Archival programs in North America are few and far between. Only a handful of programs available, the majority of archive programs are narrowly focused on records management techniques. Unfortunately, for social and cultural historians, this narrow approach has its limitations. Although as a profession, archivists have worked side-by-side with historians through the ages, archival sciences is still a young academic field. As Alex Ben's Excluding Archival Silences: Oral History and Historical Absence Excluding Archival Silences: Oral History and Historical Absence argues,

archives remain, largely, material repositories of cultural memory. It is an accepted historical problematic, however, that culture is often resistant to material preservation. There exists an undeniable and profound tension between scholarly efforts to reconstruct history and interpret cultural traditions and the fragmentary, and often limited, material record. That is to say, scholarship is shaped by a sinuous negotiation around the historical silences that encompass all of material culture. Historical silences, however, can at times be marginalized (or at best excluded) by a sensitive configuration of material evidence with oral history.

The new generation archivist should be motivated by the long term preservation of moving images and by the invention of new paradigms for access to celluloid, tape, bits and bytes. It should be rooted in historical, practical and theoretical study - and rather than limiting itself to one methodology, it needs to assign equal importance to heritage collections and emerging media types.

One example of innovative ways of recording the past is UBC's First Nations Studies Program's oral history archive projects. In particular, Interactive Video/Transcript Viewer (IVT) is a web-based tool that sychronizes a video with its transcript, so as users play the video, its transcript updates automatically. In addition to searching a video's transcript for key words and phrases, and then playing the video from that point, IVT includes a tool that allows users to create a playlist of clips from interviews for use in meetings. While it took historians thousands of hours of transcription work, IVT transcribes in real-time. These are the types of technologies archivists need to be aware of, in order for us to create active archives. And this is where information professionals need to be aware - to anticipate the needs of its users.

1 comment:

May Yan-Mountain said...

It'll be useful for researchers too. To be able to see the archives in an interactive format definitely helps in many ways: minimum travelling, maximum data retrieved; little physical storage space, greater accessibility to the file through different search techniques ...

A definite break through in combining history with technology!