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We Need Archives!

28 Mar

The readings this week have further focused on archives and the concept ‘archive fever’. I find all this talk of ‘archive fever’ very interesting. With technology advancing, there are more and more ways to publish, and with most forms of publishing being digital, it creates more instances where people will publish, therefore creating more archives. Almost everything is being archived and documented. People are now blogging and using various social media websites to write every little thing they do (Facebook and Twitter). In this way, more and more archives are being created (even though some are difficult to retrieve). These social media websites help us see how we’ve changed or what we liked doing in the past.

Archives allow us to see how we’ve progressed as a society, how things have changed, and how to improve ourselves. They tell us what’s ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ our culture. What this means is, if something isn’t preserved and archived, how do we know if it existed? There isn’t any evidence, therefore it has left our culture and history forever. Archive websites such as http://omeka.org and www.apartheidarchive.org allow us to easily access documents, images and articles about certain topics and the history of particular topics. This is done to preserve records of our history so we don’t repeat mistakes of the past and we can better ourselves for the future. I think this is a very important point and this is why archives are so important.

We can learn from our mistakes by looking at archives

Picture Source: http://www.mta.ca/library/archives/index.html

I discussed my next point in my last post, but I’d like to repeat it. The problem with archiving online publications is that they’re unstable. By that I mean that anything published online can be changed, edited, altered or deleted at any time quite easily, so if a web page hasn’t been archived before it’s been changed, then a part of history has been lost forever.

Even though online publishing has allowed us to produce more archives than we otherwise would have, it has also created a desire in everyone to have the most updated and recent information. We want and expect the most up to date information because we know it’s possible and it’s in the now. Who wouldn’t want real-time information? It keeps our knowledge of the world current which is great. However, there is a bad side to online publishing. It has reduced our interest in archiving because information becomes outdated in a matter of hours. This begs the question: Is our interest in preserving the past dwindling? Are people now only interested in what’s happening at this very moment? This seems the case with the popularity of Facebook and Twitter. A lot of valuable information could be lost and forgotten if people aren’t interested in archiving.

The good thing about online publishing is that it’s made us archive more than ever. Because it’s so easy to do, everyone is publishing things they wouldn’t have ordinarily published, allowing for more archiving. Before the revolution of online publishing, it would’ve been too time consuming and difficult. Now, there are numerous ways to archive: saving files, tagging, bookmarking, emailing, writing on social media websites and adding pages to Favourites. So, in summary, online publishing has made it easy to archive, and easy to access archives too!

Although, I’ve always wondered whether posting messages on social media websites is a form of archiving because I wasn’t sure if we permanently lose the messages we write. Well, I know for a fact that Twitter stores and saves all our Tweets, which makes it archiving. Take a look at the video:


However, there is a slight problem with archives. They allow us to look into the past and keep a record of the past, but ask yourself the question: is it really a record of the past? To me, it’s a trace of the past, not the actual past. You don’t know any of the circumstances surrounding the archive. It could look like one thing, but mean something different (this applies more to photos and images than perhaps writing). For example, let’s just say that there is a photo of someone smiling at their birthday party. This would infer that the person is happy at the time the photo was taken. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean they were happy. They could’ve just been smiling for the photo. The photo portrays the person was happy on their birthday, but they could’ve in actual fact just smiled for that split second to look happy in the photo, but be miserable for the rest of the night.

How do we really know these girls were happy on the day the photo was taken?

Picture Source: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3532/3741086396_da49369ae7.jpg

It’s a bit of a far-fetched example, but it works to explain my point. Even if this point is valid, archives tell us more about the past then we would have known if archives didn’t exist, which is why we need them!

Bibliography

Ogle, Matthew (2010) ‘Archive Fever: A love letter to the post real-time web’, mattogle.com, December 16, <http://mattogle.com/archivefever/>

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Posted by on March 28, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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