Archives 2.0

I’ve just been reading the excellent entry (with many interesting comments) on the ArchivesNext blog on the subject of ‘Archives 2.0’. I agree with Kate’s position, that ‘Archives 2.0’ should be about our mindset – the principles of participation, openness, experimenting with new technologies, collaboration and exploration. Whilst we can argue over various tools that may or may not be ‘Web 2.0’ and how we might or might not integrate these into our work patterns, surely taking a more open and participatory approach should be something we can all agree on?

At the Archives Hub our raison d’etre is dissemination – we want to improve access to archives through providing an effective cross-searching service. I see ‘Archives 2.0’ as very much in line with what we are doing – implementing standards, looking at interoperability and taking a collaborative approach. As a community, we are entirely at liberty to shape ‘Archives 2.0’ ourselves, to make it something relevant to us – the label is, after all, just a label until it has an agreed meaning behind it. It should not be seen as something forced upon us, but as something that we create and progress for our own benefit and the benefit of our users.

I’ve kept an eye open for good examples of more interactive and participatory websites relating to archives, but they seem to be a bit thin on the ground in the UK. I think that the archives community might be a bit behind the Library community in this respect, although maybe that is hardly surprising given the resources that most of us are working with and the fact that many archivists are lone practitioners. It’s not easy to embrace new technologies and new ways of working when you’re struggling to accomplish the basic tasks – acquisition, cataloguing (backlogs!), preservation, etc.

I think that some of the work that we at the Hub are doing with The Women’s Library (Genesis portal) and AIM25 in terms of interoperability and data sharing is very much ‘Archives 2.0’ but the benefits of this won’t be obvious to the outside world because its not about whizzy new user interfaces, but about sharing descriptions, rather than asking archivists to create several descriptions for different services. So this brings benefits of efficiency and more content and reduces problems of version control. We’ll post more about this work as we progress it!

I think that if we can work together as a community, then the benefits of a more open and collaborative approach can be widely shared. Certainly at the Hub we are keen to share our experience and any expertise that we might have for the benefit of the wider community, and we are also keen to find out about any other projects that we might learn from – no point in trying to work out everything for yourself if you can benefit from the experience of others.