By understanding the subjects in the archive, as well as the users accessing your collections, you can make critical decisions on how to provide access to different types of archival information. Trevor Owens explains in his book, The Theory and Craft of Digital Preservation, that there are multiple ways to offer access to the public. Some professional archives create custom interfaces with detailed descriptions. Others allow rapid access to their materials through bulk download. With bulk data, users can expand the meaning of the archive by taking the lead in designing interfaces to the collection that other individuals may access and interact with. More than a matter of scope, access can also refer to the types of archival materials available to the broader public. Some archives, for example, aim to give voices to marginalized groups and allow community members to be involved in the decision-making process: what materials are collected, how these materials are described, and who is given access to these materials. For example, The South Asian American Digital Archive (SAADA) states that its mission is to “create a more inclusive society by giving voice to South Asian Americans through documenting, preserving, and sharing stories that represent their unique and diverse experiences.” SAADA places emphasis on acknowledging the importance of South Asian immigrants and communities of the past, strengthening their communities in the present, and inspiring discussion about their role in the future. SAADA has created a community-based archive that empowers South Asian Americans to make decisions about what information is important and available to the community. This empowerment has allowed South Asian Americans to write their history beyond what is prioritized in archives created by larger mainstream institutions. In addition to marginalized groups, archives can also be used to represent and protect at-risk populations. A People’s Archive of Police Violence in Cleveland was created to showcase police brutality in the city. The archive allows community members to share their first-hand accounts of police violence in the region through narrative, oral history, image, audio, and video. Due to the sensitive material involved, the archival team prioritizes collecting as little donor information as possible in order to protect the community it is fighting to represent. Through the inclusion of records in varied formats and perspectives, the archive is able to collect stories of its subjects, the marginalized and unheard, while fighting for healing, accountability, and justice.
A People’s Archive of Police Violence in Cleveland. https://www.archivingpoliceviolence.org/. Accessed 26 Apr. 2020.
Caswell, Michelle. “Seeing Yourself in History: Community Archives and the Fight Against Symbolic Annihilation.” The Public Historian, vol. 36, no. 4, 2014, pp. 26–37, doi:10.1525/tph.2014.36.4.26.
“South Asian American Digital Archive (SAADA).” South Asian American Digital Archive (SAADA), https://www.saada.org. Accessed 26 Apr. 2020.
Trevor Owens. The Theory and Craft of Digital Preservation. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2018.