Looking Into Archives

After visiting the new and improved Sample DH Projects phase, one can see that the level of organization for this page has gone way up. Especially under the “Archive” section where one is able to navigate a variety of archives including “Old Weather” and “Lincoln at 200.” The projects are categorized in the ways in which one would go about transcribing artifacts. For example, “audio analysis” and “mapping.”


Some advantages of creating a digital artifact from archival documents include accessibility and availability. By having an artifact online, one can access it from anywhere on the planet (with internet). If the artifact that you are trying to look up exists in Turkey but you’re in London, no problem. Just pull up the artifact digitally and it’s like you’re there. Why pay for a plane ticket when there’s no need to? From an access standpoint, a digital artifact provides all the availability one needs. Seeing very old and decrepit documents can be challenging for even the most prominent of historians. Many times the artifacts will be in such bad condition that they won’t want anyone touching them for risk of the artifact being destroyed. With a digital artifact, there’s no possible way to destroy the artifact.


On the contrary, there are also some disadvantages to having a digital artifact. One disadvantage is the inability to put your hands on the document. By not being able to do this, one might miss something that they would only pick up on when in the same room with the artifact. A lot of times, things are translated digitally as perfect as they are in the real world. Small print may become blurry, and minute details that one could only catch with the naked eye might disappear. It’s for these reasons that one could argue looking over an artifact digitally is much less preferable than being there in person.

Some challenges I could face when building my own digital humanities project is the inability to be in the room with an artifact. It’s very tough for historians to get into rooms with prominent pieces, much less a freshman in college. To navigate this, I will have to settle with digital artifacts and do my best to be very careful when scanning over them.

On Physical and Digital Archives

I primarily looked at the Indigenous Peoples of North America project and oldweather.org for reflection from the course’s archive. I was struck by the effect of good graphic design on the experience of digital humanities research, beyond the fundamental organization of the site, visual appeal comprises a surprisingly large compone

The search function is one of the most powerful tools in digital databases.

The search function is one of the most powerful tools in digital databases.

nt of digital humanities. The Indigenous Peoples of North America project was especially compelling in its visual layout. The search function was especially important, in the Indigenous Peoples project, the search results allow users to go through document pages and metadata within the thumbnail view. The ability to view full citations and search through tags and keywords are very well managed on the Indigenous People’s project. The project organizes thousands early 19 to 20th century documents and photographs, monographs and newspapers1 in a way where users can search by location, subject. Search functions represent one of the major advantages of digital artifacts. Databases containing millions of dates, people and subjects can be parsed within seconds. This ability was in the most-part unavailable before the information revolution. Multimedia is also one of the advantages of digital artifacts. Users can experience an artifact through detailed imagery and simultaneously listen to audio or narrated material. The Indigenous Peoples project especially contains a feature where selected text can be read by a computer generated voice. 

While most digital humanities projects are created by experts and researchers, some harness one of the Internet’s greatest powers, the wisdom of the crowd. Old Weather aims to help scientists determine mid-19th century Arctic and worldwide weather observation by having users transcribe ship logs. Users can pick vessels and journeys to transcribe logs and collaborate with other users across the globe. The project has completed 39% of logs and has transcribed 63,125 pages. The size of this project demonstrates the things that crowdsourced digital archives can do, transcribing thousands of pages without the need for hundreds of researches. 

Oldweather.org allows users to pick vessels to transcribe  logs.

Oldweather.org allows users to pick vessels to transcribe logs.

While there are many huge advantages to digital artifacts, some very key aspects are still better with physical artifacts. The presence of an on-call expert or curator is an improvement over a stagnant website. Physical objects are often hugely complex and details often unseen in digital documents can emerge. 

Digital Archives

The new website for the Sample DH projects is very well set up. All of the projects are split in to different approaches which makes it easier to find something that works well with you. The categories are archive, visualization, mapping, digital edition, network analysis, textual analysis, and finally audio analysis. Depending on what works well for you, the website is set up to find a project that matches your taste. Because i am a very visual person, i spent some time exploring the the mapping and visualization sections and thought all of the projects were very interesting. The project that i found the most interesting in these areas was Map of Early Modern London, which we had talked about in class and I continued to look at.

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I will mostly be talking about the archive section. The summaries that are listed on this page make it incredibly easy to figure out which project interests you so you can have an idea about what it is before you go to their website.

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Old Weather

My favorite project stood out to me was Old Weather. Old Weather is a project that works to transcribe old ship’s logs in order to gain information about prior environmental conditions. My attention was drawn to this in the first place because i consider myself a boat person and love to spend time on the water and learning about early boats is something that interests me. Their website is incredible, it allows people to pick the boat that they want to look at the documents for, and then people can help with the transcriptions. They have currently finished 39% of the logs.

Creating a digital artifact from archival documents allows information to be studied that may not have been able to be earlier. Also, it makes it more accessible to the common person, which means that more people can access the information that the documents hold. I think the hardest part for me is going to be the transcriptions and i hope that i can make it through it.

Examination of Digital Archives

In this post I will be discussing digital archives. One specific digital archive that I will critique is the Sample DH Project. The new version of the Sample Digital Humanities Project is much more organized than the previous one we visited. On this website the projects are categorized by approach, which makes it very easy to navigate.

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As seen above, each approach has its own tab which is extremely useful. The users can now focus on analyzing whichever category they find easiest to interpret. For example, a visual person does not have to waste his or her time looking through documents, but can instead click straight to the visualization or mapping tab.


The Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo

Under the archive tab, the links are categorized very nicely. In addition to there being easy access to the link itself, there is a brief explanation provided as to what the website entails and why it is useful. This is a huge time saver, because now the user does not need to click into the link to search for this basic background information. The viewer can focus on researching and analyzing within seconds of opening the link. Additionally the information given is useful because based on the description the user can tell whether the website appeals to their interests. The database of Indigenous Peoples in North America is my favorite of the three. The website allows the user to limit the archives by content, document type, and language. This setup is very convenient, especially if the user knows exactly what kind of archive he or she would like to analyze. The Lincoln website is also very easy to navigate and breaks up its categories by topics and events. For example, if I want to learn more about the Mexican War I can click that tab and view specific documents related to this war, such as the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo featured to the left.

Creating a digital artifact from archival documents has both advantages and disadvantages, but in my opinion the pros definitely outweigh the cons. For starters, a digital archive gives the public access to artifacts that they otherwise might not be able to get their hands on. Most archives are extremely private and only grant access to specialists. Additionally, digital archives are fast and easy, all the user needs is connection to the internet! Digital archives also allow for more complex research and they give the public the opportunity to reconsider materials, make connections, and conduct an interdisciplinary analysis. Even more obviously, many artifacts are so old and fragile to the point where the documents are illegible. With technology, the artifacts are now able to be preserved, transcribed, and transformed into a digital form in which the public can view, read, and analyze.

However, unfortunately digital archives take away from the experience of viewing the documents for yourself. When looking at the documents firsthand, you are able to make your own observations without being influenced by others interpretations.

When building my own digital humanities project I will face many challenges. Besides the basic obstacles that come along with making a website for the first time, there are many things that must be considered in order to create a successful project. Most importantly, the website must be organized and easy to navigate, which is definitely easier said then done.

Archivist Artifacts

The DH projects are organized based on a variety of artifacts. The categories are located towards the top of the page so the viewer can easily navigate to their desired artifact. The categories consist of archive, visualization, mapping, digital edition, and network, textual and audio analysis. Depending on the viewer’s preference in categories, they can click on the link and are shown a series of projects that fit in that specific category.

I will be focusing on the archive category in the DH projects. There are 3 articles presented that are categorized as archival material. Old Weather, Lincoln 200, and Database of Indigenous Peoples in North America all obtain original documents and artifacts that support their reasons for creating the project. The documents are primary sources that provide evidence to the specific field of study. An example of a piece of archivist material is presented in the document below. These projects  give the viewer the opportunity to access archivist artifacts easily and interpret it in their own way. On the other 2 DH projects under archives, there are series of documents similar to this one that can be utilized for further analyzation and interpretation.


Artifact for Indigenous Peoples in North America

Another example of an archivist artifact could be a visualization rather than a document.  The image posted below allows for a different perspective and can be a useful historical tool that provides insight of a specific event. Drawings and paintings can convey similar information as would a document, as both images and documents can be interpreted in various ways. ln0017_i52422_7f697ce9f3

A few advantages to creating a digital artifact from archival documents include preservation, access, and reconsidering of materials. When artifacts are digitally preserved, it ensures that copies of the documents will always be accessible. If an artifact is destroyed, the digital copy will allow researchers to still read and interpret them. A digital artifact also ensures unlimited accessibility. Specific documents could not be as easily accessible because they could be held in archives all around the world. Instead of physically visiting the archives, digital artifacts can be viewed and analyzed online. Reconsidering materials is another advantage to creating a digital artifact because it allows for different perspectives and diverse opinions. It can help make broader connections between artifacts, which could lead to a greater understanding of a particular field.

Some of the disadvantages of creating a digital artifact from archival documents include the inability to transcribe and the loss of collaboration and the community aspect. There may be certain words or ideas that could not be transcribed digitally but could be interpreted if the viewer is reading the actual document. Additionally, communication and collaboration for analyzing documents can create new ideas and opinions. However, reading digitally transcribed documents is more of an individual process which causes the viewer to lose others’ input.

When I build my own digital humanities project, I may feel that some aspects of my project are organized well. In addition, I may struggle to describe my thought process and reasoning for specific parts of my project. For example, I found that Lincoln 200 was easy to navigate but I did not understand the writer’s intent for the project.