• Digital Archives: Researcher, Teacher, and Student Friendly!

    I’ve seen a couple of posts so far relating to the creation and use of digital archives – a topic that I’m very much interested in myself.  I recently started working on a digital archive, “Sixteen Tons” using the Omeka web publishing system.  As both a graduate student and someone that enjoys teaching history, I was anxious to create a project that would both highlight my own dissertation research and also possibly be useful to others in some way.  I’m hoping a digital archive may be the answer to this dilemma.

    “Sixteen Tons” is a digital archive that will document the lives of mineworkers in two remote towns at the turn-of-the twentieth century.  Many of the issues I hope to discuss with people at THATCamp have already been addressed in several different posts – so sorry for the repeats here.  However, my biggest concerns are:

    *Can digital archives facilitate an environment in which researchers are willing to and able to access the research of others?

    *How can these digital archives be incorporated into my own lesson plans for teaching history courses to undergraduate students?  Can sharing these primary sources with students change the way we think about teaching the humanities?

    *Can these sources be useful to people outside of academia?  Again – I like to teach and am thinking of ways that researchers can share digital archives with teachers and students at the secondary education level.  I have thought about applying lesson plans/guides arranged thematically to my archive but am not sure of how to reach an audience outside of academia.

    *Finally, I’ve written about this in a blog post, but I think it’s worth discussing with as many people as I can – what can creators of these digital archives do to avoid copyright issues further down the road.

4 Comments


  1. Great topic! Having worked with MARC and Dublin Core, I always felt that the schema strongly focused on the content they describe but these schemas may be perceived as detached from the context (such as curriculum) in which they are supposed to be meaningful. Penntags (MARC + user tags) provides the standard catalog metadata plus user tags allow users to connect library records with the outside world. The same should be possible in databases using Dublin Core. From what I heard, Zentity is another product that allows user tags but I have not seen the metadata schema. I’ll look forward to the discussion of your topic.

  2. LynneG says:

    I also think this is a great idea, and it is something that I am struggling with now.

    I direct the MSU Campus Archaeology Program, and we need to develop a way to minimize the amount of redundancy in our work. Each year, there is new group of both undergraduate and graduate students working in the program. I would love to have a digital archive that includes relevant paper archives and commentaries on them, as well as archaeological reports and descriptions. Students would then know what has been done, what is available, and perhaps better determine their own directions.

    I would also use such an archive for teaching intro to archaeology. Students in the class have the option of doing projects or a paper. I can’t turn everyone loose on the MSU Archives, but I could let them use a digital archive tailored to our purposes. I can also see creating several lessons tying together archival, map, and archaeological kinds of information.

    I look forward to the discussion.

  3. katymeyers says:

    Given my new project for CHI I definitely want to participate in this, especially how we can use them for teaching.

  4. archmeg says:

    I’m also interested in making digital databases useful to Secondary Ed. teachers and would love to hear your ideas.

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