Exploring the Participatory Archives

I’m happy to back from this year’s annual meeting of the Society of American Archivists in Chicago. I was part of a great session, “What Happens After ‘Here Comes Everybody’: An Examination of Participatory Archives,” along with Elizabeth Yakel and Alexandra Eveleigh, moderated by Robert Townsend. We were lucky to be selected by the online publication CMSWire as a session worth highlighting, and so you can read a full summary of our remarks in their article. Below is my presentation (via SlideShare).

The purpose of my presentation was to introduce the concept of participatory archives and propose a definition. That definition is:

An organization, site or collection in which people other than archives professionals contribute knowledge or resources, resulting in increased understanding about archival materials, usually in an online environment.

As you can see from the slides, I think it’s important to make a distinction between engagement and participation. This distinction is not intended to create a hierarchical system in which participation is “better.” Rather I think it will assist us, as a profession whose experience with both types on online activity is relatively new, to think more clearly and have more focused discussions about what makes each type of activity successful.

You’ll see more from me about this in the future, but for now I’d be interested in feedback on this first iteration of the definition, which I know doesn’t necessarily conform to the way others have used those terms.

UPDATE: You can read Alexandra’s own posts about her SAA experiences on her blog, Around the World in 80 Gigabytes, and about our session in particular here. Her slides are up on Slideshare too.

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