Archives: Physical and Digital

Looking at the new Sample Projects site, all of the featured projects have been separated and grouped based on what kind of data was collected, and form of digital media the raw data was translated into.  Categories such as Mapping, Visualization, and Network Analysis contain projects that are very visual-based, while others, such as the ones in the Archives section, deal with and create mostly text-based artifacts.  I looked in-depth at the Old Weather project in the Archives section.


Old Weather - Transcribe

The process of transcribing original documents into raw text data.

The aim of this project is to transcribe old ship’s logs from the 1800’s and early 1900’s.  The data contained in those logs are useful for researchers in many different fields, from naval historians to climate specialists.  One powerful benefit of choosing to digitize the archives is that all of these interested researchers are now able to access the data without trouble.


Old Weather - Our Weather's Past, the Climate's Future

An overview of the scale and progress of the Old Weather project.

It is important to note the scale of this project.  There are well over 100,000 pages of data from dozens of voyages to be transcribed.  A team of researchers with the original documents would never be able to get through everything in a reasonable amount of time, so the team behind the Old Weather project rely on another major benefit of their digital archives: crowd sourcing.  Just like the previous idea how anyone can access the final data, thousands of people can also help to interpret the raw data.


For all the virtues of digital archiving, however, it does have its flaws.  When transferring documents over into a digital format, you can only transfer what you think to look for.  Some information can be lost unless someone in the future wants, for some reason, to take another look at the originals.  Crowd sourcing also has some flaws.  While it is nice to have extra hands doing the work, unskilled hands can possibly do more harm than good, and create more work for the research team.


The most difficult part of our project will probably be interpreting the various documents we will come across.  This hurdle will just have to be overcome as we gain experience.

Transcription (a beginning)

How do you move from archive to digital artifact?

Traditionally the process starts in the archive when you find a document that catches your eye. It’s interesting, it sheds new light on an issue in history, and it’s the only copy in the world!! You have to decide what to do with that document.  Nowadays we’re able to use digital cameras in the archive  to take a photograph of the pages that we are interested in.  As you are taking digital photographs, you have to remember what they are of, what their call number is. And so I normally keep an archive log. Sometimes, as in the case of the Linn documents we’ll be working with, the archive agrees to have a set of documents sent out to a professional digitization firm to ensure that the documents are carefully managed and kept organized. [Read more…]

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.

Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 1.17.52 AM

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.

Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 1.11.54 AM

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.

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.