“Quietly Incomplete”: Academic Historians, Digital Archival Collections, and Historical Research in the Web Era
Since the early 1990s, archives institutions largely have approached digital archival collections with an “if we build it, they will come” mentality. But the extent and motivations of use for traditional and emerging patron groups are constantly evolving, and the factors or conditions that characterize use vary wildly in the web environment. As part of a broader study investigating how academic historians utilize and interact with digital archival collections, this paper details the findings of a pilot project involving a citation analysis, survey, and semi-structured interviews with academic historians from a medium-sized Carnegie Research 1 university. This limited exploratory study attempts to identify characteristics and conditions of digital archival collection use and gather firsthand accounts about the benefits, limitations, challenges, and utility of digital archival collections to this cohort’s research. The authors found that these resources are valued but underutilized due to ongoing issues with accessibility and availability, and that digital archival collections on the web continue to be “quietly incomplete” even as they grow in number, volume, and subject. The authors call for further research involving academic historians and other key user groups to inform institutional approaches to the design, creation, and development of digital archival collections for all users.
Force, Donald and Wiles, Bradley
"“Quietly Incomplete”: Academic Historians, Digital Archival Collections, and Historical Research in the Web Era,"
Journal of Contemporary Archival Studies: Vol. 8, Article 18.
Available at: https://elischolar.library.yale.edu/jcas/vol8/iss1/18