Archive Blogs

September 13, 2006

What is an Archive Blog? This should be a crucial question as the growing field of “blogs about archives” offers up posts stretching from the recent SAA conference to South Carolina Gamecocks. Perhaps it would it be helpful to make a distinction between official blogs relating to news and services from archival repositories and personal blogs written by people who happen to work in archives? The ‘2.0‘ world tends to unite people with common interests on general topics, bringing computer users together and allowing for the positive information sharing models. However, archives are used by a wide range of people such as academics of all types, journalists, art researchers, genealogists, authors, archaeologists, etc. who search for answers and uncover stories in collections of materials described and organized by archivists. I understand this is a very simplistic interpretation of the function of archives but still I wonder if it is in the best interest of archives to consider ‘Archive Blogs’ to be blogs written by archivists only? Using blogs to create additional information to finding aids seems to me to be a legitimate purpose of an ‘archives blog,’ but apart from the Polar Bear Expedition Club I haven’t seen too much experimentation with blog-like technology and collection description. Perhaps I need to keep searching for an someone crazy enough to be making Finding Aids 2.0.

Anyway, to repeat to myself, I ask again just what is an Archive Blog? What is the role of blogs in archivists lives? I could ask this question in a thousand different ways and each answer would be as important as the next. I have witnessed how blogging tends to suck the life out of people as they turn from multidimensional humans into single-minded RSS feeds. Blogging deserves a large amount of criticism even from those who do partake in it, as a technology it rests on flimsy foundations of emerging, changing tools and only a slim representation of people find time to write them. Constructive criticism is just and no matter how much I think blogging is purile, I still can’t help from posting these silly notes. Back to archives, I fear that it’s almost absurd to consider ‘blogs about archives’ in anyway capable of truly reflecting the nature and significance of the documents contained in archives and that it would be somewhat of a blunder on the part of anyone truly committed to the collection and preservation of historical materials in any serious way to closely link themselves with fleeting phenomena such as Blogger, Moveable Type, Technorati or WordPress. However, I might be wrong and should have rather spent the last 4-6 minutes cutting and pasting odd facts into the computer such as how yesterday I saw our uncataloged document, Examination of Tittuba the Indian Woman, 1692.

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13 Responses to “Archive Blogs”

  1. Jeanne Says:

    I started my ‘archives blog’ because I wanted to connect with the larger archival community as I work my way towards my MLS in the Archives Track at the University of Maryland. I am already enjoying the feedback from others who are interested in some of what I am interested in – it makes me feel a bit less alone with my ideas.

    I think that a blog can be so many things that it really goes back to the goals of those doing the writing. I think there are definitely lots of opportunities for blogs from ‘official archives’ that are a cross between a newsletter and PR about the neat stuff you might not realize they have. Just as there are opportunities for individuals (be they archivists, students or researchers) to share the challenges with which they are struggling in archives and the clever ways in which they find to deal with them.

    As with all communities of focused interest, the archival community seems to have a good share of passionate people who are sorting through ideas and the connections among them. I also love that I can keep my eye on ‘librarian blogs’ and ‘software blogs’ and ‘website development blogs’ and keep finding interesting new ideas to connect back to the archives arena.

  2. thomlann Says:

    Thanks for the comment Jeanne. I completely agree with you and as you probably know, have commented on your blog as well. The very activity of sharing ‘comments’ supports your claim that blogs connect people in a larger community, in this case the ‘archival community’ or at least those in the ‘archival community’ who use blogs and feeds as part of their internet routine.

    Discussing 2.0 (2.0 implies: blogs, tags, pod casts, RSS feeds, social software, the semantic web, i.e. you’ve heard it all before, etc.) recently with a friend, we shared frustration over the way these technologies are so often used merely to support the technologies themselves, while those people who might have more to share with the world are not using 2.0 technology. I think this is because the early supporters of 2.0 are out there laying the groundwork for future integration of 2.0 into more basic and previously trusted social networks. Tagging at del.icio.us may help to create stronger connections between users and resources than Google searches. But taking 2.0 too seriously risks distorting fields of research by privileging those who do blog over those who do not. Last year in the library blog world there was a big tiff over Michael Gorman’s anti-blog comments that spurred many people to label themselves ‘blog person.’ Many of these people criticized Gorman, thus showing one of the weakest aspects of blogs as communication tools. Blogs are void of criticism. People read blogs to support their own ideas, networks emerge where everyone gets along and thinks the same way. Gorman’s critique of ‘blogging’ was important as unflagging support of anything quickly turns into pointless jingoism. Technology should not be used as means to ends of its own design, instead it should assist people where evidence supports that assistance is needed.

    I sometimes wonder how much critical thinking comes out of 2.0 technologies and those who have so fervently adopted their practice. I proceed into the 2.0 world with extreme caution and would be content to see the whole thing disappear as fast it arose. This disappearance could occur with universal adoption or ignorance. Meanwhile I will continue to actively experiment with 2.0 tools in order to discover how they may best serve traditional models of service, education, and communication to which I am committed to as an archivist – librarian. In particular, I am interested in creating a ‘Casey Bisson inspired wopac’ for the Manuscripts and Archives Division of New York Public Library where I am employed. Also, the possible use of blogs to better disseminate reference works valuable to the typical archive user.

    Again, thanks for commenting on documenting sources.


  3. [...] I had fully earmarked addressing Thomas G. Lannon’s “Archive Blogs” post on Documenting Sources, his blog, for over a week now after discovering it in my requisite vanity search of Technorati. Other things (even reading) have kept me busy, though, hence the unintentional neglect. I’ve had plenty of time to reflect upon it at this point, so I might as well respond to some of his points. [...]

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  5. Calltrirl Says:

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  6. [...] had fully earmarked addressing Thomas G. Lannon's "Archive Blogs" post on Documenting Sources, his blog, for over a week now after discovering it in my requisite vanity [...]


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