Pre-digital Digitization: Copying and Surrogacy in English Archives / Michael Riordan (Oxford University)

As long as there have been records, people have made copies. Monasteries copied deeds into cartularies, early modern archivists spent much of their time making copies and excerpts of records for the government and for the fee-paying public. Particularly from the C18th, records were published, either in full as editions or as excerpts in histories, and in the C20th surrogates were made on microfilm and microfiche. These pre-digital techniques all document shifts in how records are preserved, how they are used, how they are perceived and the role of the archivist. Today we have formal surrogates through digitization, but also the mass photographing of documents as a research tool by users. This paper will explore what this also says about preservation, use, perception and the archivist in the light of the earlier technologies.

Registration across Technologies: The Inscription of Value in Paper and Digital Records Systems / James Lowry (City University of New York)

This paper will consider British colonial registry practices through a close study of the Bengal Records Manual of 1943, to draw out the mechanisms for controlling and assuring authenticity in official papers. The paper will show how these mechanisms have been reproduced in standards for digital records management, to suggest that continuity, rather than rupture, characterises thinking about information management across changes to record-making and -keeping technologies.

Differentiation in Description or How Archivists invented the Semantic Web / Jenny Bunn (University College London)

This paper will look at developments in digital archival description during the 1990s. With the development of MARC-AMC in the USA in the 1980s, archives had piggy-backed on the work of libraries to give themselves a springboard into technology and online access. Many archivists however (particularly in the UK) expressed an underlying disquiet that this strategy betrayed the fact that archival data was different and sought to serve purposes beyond those of resource discovery and delivery. This paper will discuss the differentiation (during the 1990s) of distinctly archival database systems, such as ARCHWAY and CALM (in the UK), and of the international development of the ISAD(G) standard for archival description as indicators of a seeming need felt by archivists for their own differentiation. It will examine why they felt this need – for greater specification – and suggest that one way to understand the difference that archivists were trying to articulate is that they were working to a vision similar to that of Tim Berners Lee’s imagining of the Semantic Web. It will question whether the case can be made that, if librarians envisioned the first generation internet, archivists have always been working on the basis of a vision closer to that of the Semantic Web?