Archives, the internet and contextualisation
Hill, V. (2010) Archives, the internet and contextualisation. In: (De)constructing the Archive in a Digital Age, School of the Arts, Loughborough University, UK, 24th November 2010.
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There are many different ways that photographic archives are using the Internet to increase the visibility of their collections. These include showcasing specific images or discrete smaller collections through either institutional websites, or by utilising pre-existing web 2.0 sites. One issue that arises through this method of dissemination is how to ensure that the images featured do not become isolated from their associated background information. Some of the institutions which have taken part in the Flickr Commons initiative have taken steps to address this through giving the viewer links to the full catalogue reference of the image as well as supplying some of the catalogue details in either the title or description fields. The interaction between the viewer and image offered through 2.0 technology also offers possibilities for further contextualising information to be added arising from personal experiences of the subject portrayed. This paper will examine what strategies can be used to maintain the link between the digital surrogate and the physical object. It will also look at how the dynamic nature of the Internet allows images to be placed in a new, or different, context through allowing them to be viewed alongside images from other institutions, possibly creating a new and larger story. It is not only the institution that bears a responsibility in regards to ensuring these digital surrogates do not become on-line orphans. Technological advances have changed approaches to research, in particular with its perceived immediacy of results and the ease with which images can be copied from one site and pasted into another (often without the associated meta-data). There is therefore a responsibility placed on the researcher both in terms of properly referencing any of these surrogates used, but also one of not relying on the Internet as a substitute for ‘old-fashioned’ research methods but as a possible starting point on a pathway that should lead back to the physical object.