Archival description is often misunderstood by librarians, administrators, and technologists in ways that have seriously hindered the development of access and discovery systems. It is not widely understood that there is currently no off-the-shelf system that provides discovery and access to digital materials using archival methods. This article is an overview of the core differences between archival and bibliographic description, and discusses how to design access systems for born-digital and digitized materials using the affordances of archival metadata. It offers a custom indexer as a working example that adds the full text of digital content to an Arclight instance and argues that the extensibility of archival description makes it a perfect match for automated description. Finally, it argues that building archives-first discovery systems allows us to use our descriptive labor more thoughtfully, better enable digitization on demand, and overall make a larger volume of cultural heritage materials available online.
In late 2021, the Library of Congress adopted several exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) provision prohibiting circumvention of technological measures that control access to copyrighted works. In other words, they created a set of exceptions to the general legal rule against cracking digital locks on things like DVDs, software, and video games. The exemptions are set out in regulations published by the Copyright Office. They went into effect on October 28, 2021 and last until October 28th, 2024. This guide is intended to help preservationists determine whether their activities are protected by the new exemptions. It includes important updates to the first edition to reflect changes in the rule to allow offsite access to non-game software, along with a few other technical changes.
Access to data is seen as a key priority today. Yet, the vast majority of digital cultural data preserved in archives is inaccessible due to privacy, copyright or technical issues. Emails and other born-digital collections are often uncatalogued, unfindable and unusable. In the case of documents that originated in paper format before being digitised, copyright can be a major obstacle to access. To solve the problem of access to digital archives, cross-disciplinary collaborations are absolutely essential. The big challenges of our time—from global warming to social inequalities—cannot be solved within a single discipline. The same applies to the challenge of "dark" archives closed to users. We cannot expect archivists or digital humanists to find a magical solution that will instantly make digital records more accessible. Instead, we need to set up collaborations across disciplines that seldom talk to each other. Based on 21 interviews with 26 archivists, librarians and other professionals in cultural institutions, we identify key obstacles to making digitised and born-digital collections more accessible to users. We outline current levels of access to a wide range of collections in various cultural organisations, including no access at all and limited access (for example, when users are required to travel on-site to consult documents). We suggest possible solutions to the problems of access—including the ethical use of Artificial Intelligence to unlock “dark” archives inaccessible to users. Finally, we propose the creation of a global user community who would participate in decisions on access to digital collections.
Policy makers produce digital records on a daily basis. A selection of records is then preserved in archival repositories. However, getting access to these archival materials is extremely complicated for many reasons—including data protection, sensitivity, national security, and copyright. Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be applied to archives to make them more accessible, but it is still at an experimental stage. While skills gaps contribute to keeping archives ‘dark’, it is also essential to examine issues of mistrust and miscommunication. This article argues that although civil servants, archivists, and academics have similar professional principles articulated through professional codes of ethics, these are not often communicated to each other. This lack of communication leads to feelings of mistrust between stakeholders. Mistrust of technology also contributes to the barriers to effective implementation of AI tools. Therefore, we propose that surfacing the shared professional ethics between stakeholders can contribute to deeper collaborations between humans. In turn, these collaborations can lead to the building of trust in AI systems and tools. The research is informed by semi-structured interviews with thirty government professionals, archivists, historians, digital humanists, and computer scientists. Previous research has largely focused on preservation of digital records, rather than access to these records, and on archivists rather than records creators such as government professionals. This article is the first to examine the application of AI to digital archives as an issue that requires trust and collaboration across the entire archival circle (from record creators to archivists, and from archivists to users).
Four main themes were identified: fitting AI into day to day practice; the responsible use of (AI) technology; managing expectations (about AI adoption) and bias associated with the use of AI. The analysis suggests that AI adoption combined with hindsight about digitisation as a disruptive technology might provide archival practitioners with a framework for re-defining, advocating and outlining digital archival expertise.