Archives context and discovery: Hierarchy in the digital age

Sarah Higgins, Christopher Hilton

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review

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Abstract

Predominant archival cataloguing standards were developed in tandem with the personal computer. These standards have their roots in the paper paradigm and emphasise hierarchical description to facilitate intellectual and physical access, and to preserve context. To date, publications concerning archival standards have concentrated on: tracking their uptake through single implementation case studies; software compliancy developments; and comparisons between different standards. Objective critique of their content and use in practice has been minimal. The case for rethinking archival description for the digital age, in terms of web access to catalogues and cataloguing back-logs, was presented by the authors at ICA2014.
This paper, the second in a series, will present the research design and initial results of a study which aims to prove the hypothesis that in the
age of web based access, current descriptive standards do not facilitate intellectual and physical access to archival material, while preserving
context. Should the hypothesis prove true, the study aims to establish where the insufficiencies lie. The hypothesis will be tested through a three stage mixed methods approach using a UK lens and a professional viewpoint. Firstly, documentary analysis of web-accessible and collected material will establish the cataloguing policies and processes of archives repositories and
aggregators including: the uptake of archival standards, how they have been implemented, and the online presence of archives (catalogues,
digital facsimiles and born-digital material). Secondly, quantitative research methods will establish how much resource is available for cataloguing tasks, what percentage of catalogues has been retro-converted to current standards and the processing backlog. Thirdly, qualitative research, comprising structured interviews with a sample of archive practitioners and aggregators, will identify how collections are selected for processing, and how providing online access to archival descriptions and digitised resources is impacting on established cataloguing practice. Research will further investigate how the implementation of standards is helping or hindering this process and whether practitioners
believe that both context and discovery are supported, particularly in the light of new technologies such as: automated metadata capture,
Web 3.0 and linked data.The outcomes of the study should provide: an overview of current archival descriptive practice and the methods and assumptions governing this in the UK. An exploration of the implications of these findings for future developments will provide the foundations of a third paper in this series, exploring alternative cataloguing paradigms through the prism of reader discovery and access
Original languageEnglish
Pages76
Publication statusPublished - 29 Sept 2015
Event3rd ICA Annual Conference - Archives: Evidence, Security & Civil Rights - Reykjavik, Iceland
Duration: 28 Sept 201529 Sept 2015

Conference

Conference3rd ICA Annual Conference - Archives: Evidence, Security & Civil Rights
Country/TerritoryIceland
Period28 Sept 201529 Sept 2015

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