A Digital Archive contains Digital Objects, organized into Digital Collections for convenience.This site hosts the following 7 Digital Archives:
A Digital Object consists of Web pages that can be viewed either separately or in the context of other related pages.
Many Digital Objects use images, text, audio, video, and other media to represent physical objects (e.g., photographs, artwork, or documents) or ephemeral objects (e.g., music or video) for the benefit of people unable to access them directly. A Digital Object also presents information about the object it stands for, such as its size, shape, history, duration, identification of people, places, or things shown, and perhaps even its provenance. This information is generally called metadata. The presentation may also include interpretations of the object (e.g., discussions about the object, its creation, its place in history, or its significance).
Digital Objects can be accessed without subjecting fragile physical objects to any risk of damage due to ambient light, temperature variations, damaging humidity, or rough handling. Each Digital Object may have its own permanent URL so it can continue to be recognized as the same object though its interpretation could change over time. Thus Digital Objects serve four important purposes: publication, presentation, protection, and permanence.
Of course accessing a Digital Object is never the same as accessing the physical object directly, but the greater convenience, lower cost, easier access to metadata, and reduced risks to the original object are substantial benefits.
Other Digital Objects may describe things that are born digital and therefore have no corresponding physical object. Like other Digital Objects, these provide benefits of the presentation of interpretations and metadata, permanent URLs, and wide availability. What may not be as obvious is that they also provide protection benefits: a Digital Object may contain copies of original data files that might otherwise be at risk of getting lost or damaged through neglect, human error, format obsolescence, or physical bit degradation.
The normal practice of storing physical objects in cabinets or boxes, or placing them on selves, protects the objects physically. It also allows them to be placed near other, related objects which facilitates their discovery and retrieval. However, this benefit may be quite limited because there are many ways that two or more objects might be related, and physical proximity can only be based on one.
This problem does not exist, in principle, for Digital Archives, in which objects can be organized in many different ways at the same time, using Digital Collections. A Digital Collection is simply a list of Digital Objects, generally chosen according to some unifying principle. For convenience a Digital Collection can also include sub-collections, meaning that objects held by a sub-collection are, automatically, also held by the original collection. That is, a collection may hold some objects directly, and others indirectly through its sub-collections, their sub-collections, and so on. From the point of view of a sub-collection, the original collection is a super-collection. Like all collections, either may include any number of sub-collections and be included in any number of super-collections. Collections not included in any super-collection are known as top-level collections. They hold the largest number of objects, but because of sub-collections need not hold very many (or indeed any) directly.
A Digital Object need not be held by any collection, but if it is, it may be held by one, two, or more at the same time. These collections may be defined by different principles and group together objects related in different ways. Placing an object in a collection is like filing a document or piece of paper. A Digital Object that is not held by any collection might be thought of as an “unfiled object.”
A configuration of collections is a valuable organizing tool. It helps visitors discover and locate objects of interest.
Browsing through Digital Archives is facilitated by three technologies.
First, the Table of Contents of any Digital Collection, or the Digital Archive as a whole, can be sorted in various ways. On this site the Tables of Contents will be able to list Digital Objects and Collections in the order they were created, their title, number of objects held, or people or locales associated with the objects. Some of the data that can be used for sorting is generated automatically, some is found in the metadata, and some is available because details in the objects have been tagged manually.
Second, if collections are configured and described well, visitors can start with top-level collections and then select sub-collections and perhaps super-collections, guided by each one’s name, description, and Table of Contents, and eventually end up at a collection whose holdings match their interests.
Third, a technology used for browsing is indexing. If a Digital Archive is mounted on a Web site that is accessible to the public and is regularly indexed by search services such as Google, then readable data in Digital Objects and Digital Collections, including interpretations and metadata, will be indexed and people searching for words or phrases appearing there will discover the objects and be led to them.
Each Digital Archive has its own set of policies. One states whether the URLs of the Digital Archive and its Digital Objects are permanent. Another specifies what information, if any, about living people is omitted to protect their privacy. Another describes whether public pages are available to all and if they may display copyrighted material.
Examples of these policies are printed below, for illustration only. The actual policies that apply to specific Digital Archives may be different in significant ways.
Permanence Policy. Internet addresses (URLs) of this archive and its objects will not be changed in the future, so they can be used reliably in links. If an object is ever deleted, its address will thenceforth lead to an explanation of what happened. On the other hand, collections can be redefined, reconfigured, or removed at any time; their URLs are not permanent unless specifically so indicated.
Access Policy. As far as is known, material on public pages in this archive is not subject to copyright restrictions unless so indicated. It is available to all, without charge, for any noncommercial purpose.
Request. If you notice any violation of an archive policy (particularly if you find copyrighted material here) please report the facts using the comment and inquiry form below.
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