Archives assignments

An archive is a collection of materials or media, which are organized to be searched or browsed. Objects in an archive are stored in an online platform with metadata about each object, so users can easily search and find what they are looking for. Building a smaller, thematic archive in a single semester allows students to adopt a curatorial mindset and the addition of descriptions as metadata will develop critical analysis skills. Alternatively, a more comprehensive archive can be built upon in subsequent semesters, which can serve as an evergreen resource for future analysis.

Assignment considerations

  • Be aware of the project’s scope; a comprehensive archive might be out of scope for a single semester, particularly if materials must be digitized. Work with students to determine what might be achievable.
  • Many cultural institutions, including the Princeton University Library and Princeton University Art Museum, are making their collections available in the IIIF (International Image Interoperability Framework). This standard allows, and indeed facilitates, the re-use and collection of existing digitized materials.
  • Keep in mind that descriptive metadata must be added to the objects to make the archive searchable. It can be quite easy to add new objects to a platform, but describing those objects adequately can be a lengthy and perhaps tedious process. Course assignments might focus more on thorough research on fewer objects rather than metadata descriptions of many objects.
Student preparation

A very basic online, searchable archive can be created using a course blog on McGraw Commons or with Omeka, a platform for creating online collections and hosted by the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning. These online tools may require some training but tend to be user friendly. Other tools, such as CollectionBuilder or Wax, will likely require more training to familiarize students with spreadsheet software for metadata curation, image manipulation, and GitHub.

Posted by May 10, 2021