We’re all about the digital here at the Alexandria Archive. In this time of COVID that means we’re all about the digital talk! On February 3, the International History Students and Historians Group invited our team to discuss digital data, museums, history, heritage, archaeology, and what all of these things have in common. We also spent some time introducing our projects. The newest projects from the AAI are the Digging Digital Museums Project, and the Digital Data Stories Project, and the Sustainability, Collaboration, and Network Building Project.
During the talk, there were three questions that the team tried to answer.
After an explanation of the Alexandria Archive and Open Context from Sarah and Eric Kansa, Sarah took the first question, explaining how as an organization we’re expanding our scope beyond technical skills and archiving data. We’re putting more attention into data uses and reuses. We’re thinking about how data can address community concerns. This means thinking about methodology. It means thinking about ethics. It means thinking about theory. It means looking at how the data we store is used by others.
Paulina Przystupa fielded our second question. Paulina’s background is in historical archaeology, so she was perfect to answer this question! One of the chief areas where history and archaeology differ in digital research is in their definition of a document. Paulina explained that while historians tend to focus on textual primary source documents, like newspapers, journals, and written sources, archaeologists focus more on non-textual physical remains. She stressed the importance in archaeology of creating a detailed digital record of the physical characteristics of our artifact sources. The key to finding the shared space of digital history and digital archaeology is not in our sources, but in how and what we create with our data.
Following that, I took on the third question, because the words ‘digital representation’ are like a Bat-Signal to me. (You say them and I’m summoned to speak. Don’t try this at home.) The big thing I tried to address in answering this question was the importance of planning time and placing effort into post-fieldwork digital labor. For a historian, the time in an archive, or for an archaeologist, the time excavating, are such small windows in the life of the data produced. Pinar followed up, connecting persistence in time to ideas of persistence in access, especially in museums, and Leigh brought us home discussing sustainability and the importance of collaboration.
Our discussion continued for another half an hour, fielding questions from viewers, and from our fantastic hosts at IHSHG. A big thank you to João Viegas, Manuel Canudo, and Pedro Alfaia for speaking with us, and to the 500(!) viewers of the stream for tuning in. We loved speaking with you all, and hope to develop more work with the IHSHG soon!