If Only We Could Reach the Shoals: Barriers to Archives Digitization

Maher, William J.

"When I first joined the archival profession over thirty years ago, I noticed how
my new colleagues seemed to be hallucinating. Witnessing the power of
mainframe computers and imagining the possibilities of bibliographic networks,
they had visions about how this technology might liberate us so we could actively
connect our archives to users and potential users—students, scholars and the
general public—without being bound by the physicality of the archives. While
most thought in terms of automating finding aids and indices, a few even dared to
imagine that new technologies might also allow us to store, retrieve and deliver the
full text of archival documents. I have to admit that the notion that somehow
computer terminals could be linked to a network to enable even small archives to
―broadcast‖ archival documents worldwide was a bit beyond my imagination.
Where was the technology, the infrastructure and the mass market to implement
such a system?"


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Columbia Journal of Law & the Arts

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May 26, 2011