Digital Archive

From the first glance at the new DH sample website, you can see much improvement from the previous link. The previous link was just a list of DH projects. The new website categorized all the projects making it much easier to navigate. There are 7 categories to choose from: Archive, Visualization, Mapping, Digital Edition, Network Analysis, Textual Analysis, and Audio Analysis. Depending on what you are working on, you can easily choose a category and pick a project.

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The interface of Indegenous People Archive

The first category I looked at was Archive. I saw three DH projects that are exceptionally well designed. They are all very well put together and easy to navigate. The one that struck me the most was the Indigenous People project, which is from Bucknell Bertrand library. It is very well organized. After clicking on Exploring Collections, the site shows you every document the project has to offer. With the searching mechanism, you can choose documents depending on Content Type, Document Type, Language, and Source Library.

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A picture of a Kiowa married couple

There are many advantages in making digital artifact from archival documents. It is easily accessible and it is widely available. The problem that original documents have is that they can be easily damaged. Similar to the video we watched in class, many documents are in bad state so we don’t have access to them. By putting them online, we can preserve the documents and make it available for anyone who is interested.

The only disadvantage I can think of is the hand-on experience. When holding the documents with your own hands, you can deduct many things from its physical state and the material it is made of. Without personal touch, it is hard to empathize with subject of the document.

There will be many obstacles in creating my DH project. The main challenge would be making it easy to navigate for others. It is hard to create an interface that can help people understand my intent and my thought process.

On Physical and Digital Archives

I primarily looked at the Indigenous Peoples of North America project and 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. allows users to pick vessels to transcribe  logs. 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. 

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.