Archives 2.0 is here. What does that mean?

Previously I’ve written here about how I define “Archives 2.0” (August 2007, October 2008, November 2008, for example), and recently I had to condense all that thinking down into something I can present in 3-5 minutes because I’m chairing a great session in Austin (#104, Thursday, Aug. 13, 8:30-10:00) that presents research into how archives are using Web 2.0 tools and discusses that in the context of Archives 2.0. If you’re going to be at SAA, you should come to this session and participate in a discussion of the implications of this research and what you have to say about this concept of Archives 2.0.

But both for people who can’t come to Austin, and to improve my part of the session, this is what’s in the current draft of my slides. My job is to provide a quick introduction to the concepts and define what “Archives 2.0” means. And then get out of the way for the presenters. If you agree or disagree with what I’m saying below, or think something needs to be re-stated, please leave a comment and let me know what you think.

Archives 2.0–What it is NOT

  • Not a passing fad
  • Not just Archives + Web 2.0
  • Not something “in the future”
  • Not just for “tech” people

Characteristics of Archives 1.0:

  • Closed
  • Opaque
  • Archivist/record-centered
  • Localized practices
  • Technology-phobic
  • Results “unmeasurable”
  • Archivist as provider or gatekeeper, authority
  • Focused on “perfect” products
  • Archivists valued because of what they know
  • Tradition
  • Relied on users to find us

[caveat–these are generalizations, not true for all archives, etc.]

Characteristics of Archives 2.0

  • Open
  • Transparent
  • User-centered
  • Standardization
  • Technology-savvy
  • Measuring outputs, outcomes, impacts
  • Archivist as facilitator
  • Open to iterating products
  • Archivists valued because of what they do
  • Innovation & flexibility
  • Looking for ways to attract new users

Archives 2.0 is a natural evolution, result of:

  • Increased professionalization
  • Technological evolution
  • More sophisticated users

That’s what I’ve got so far. Anyone have anything to add?

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8 thoughts on “Archives 2.0 is here. What does that mean?”

  1. Seems like a good and to-the-point summary so far! I’m curious though what the explanation would be behind the bullets “localized practices” “standardization”?

  2. Nothing to add to the list. I’d like to note that I think that the seeming conflict/tension, and the ‘intersections,’ between the “Perfect Product’ of Archives 1.0 and the “Standardization” of Archives 2.0 ought to be a very fruitful area for discussion.

    Actually, I did think of one thing. Some people (including a nagging little voice at the back of my mind, sometimes) may ask “What about preservation?” How can we assure that in adding these new roles to our outlooks and to our work, that preservation is continued? I think that such questions, although sometimes sounding like they come from backwards-looking, change-resistant, hairsplitting worrywarts–sometimes myself included!–are important to address in some way. Can these concerns be addressed simply in a “Hey, relax. We’re not throwing the baby out with the bathwater, here” kind of way or should our we use these tensions as an opportunity to look systematically at what are roles as archivists truly are? And if so, how? (My attempts at eloquence on a too-hot Sunday afternoon.)

  3. I wonder if there is any reflection about the action of creating archives? Being user-centred is mentioned, as well as Archivist as facilitator (facillitating what I am not sure), but does this point to a wider understanding that archives are not collected and stored by archivists (archivists as custodians), but created, nourished and preserved through collections and appraisal policies and procedures? It seems to me that anything with a 2.0 suffix is allegedly revolutionary. To me, Archives 2.0 is more about adopting some fun new tools, which challenge a few technophobes who don’t want to interact with society, but there is nothing really revolutionary about it to the archival profession itself. Perhaps this is not what Archives 2.0 is about. But then maybe then the phenomena of user-centred archives could be called, Participatory Archives. ( This is being talked about for multicultural collections and involves not just some fancy techno tools, but fundamental changes to the way records are seen as evidence of individuals and groups and how they can be accessed, by whom, when, and what information can be added to the record etc. The technology plays a secondary function to the premise of being participatory.
    Perhaps this is what Archives 2.0 is about and I am mis-understanding?

  4. Hi Leisa,

    I think that the participatory archives you’re talking about are very much characteristic of the larger phenomenon that I’m calling Archives 2.0. The designation “2.0” (or 3.0, etc.) doesn’t imply revolution–it’s an evolution or iteration. It’s the next phase of development. And this is most definitely not just about fun new tools. Although being open to using fun new tools is part of what differentiates 1.0 from 2.0–although all of these are clearly broad generalizations, of course. Archives 2.0 is being used as an umbrella term to talk about a larger set of changes that have taken place (and are still taking place in some institutions).

    This may also be very much a discussion based on the archival profession and practice in the United States where I do think there are many changes that move far beyond just using Web 2.0 tools. I’ve tried to make it clear that most of the characteristics have little to do with specific tools, except, as I’ve said, a willingness to use them and an appreciation for the speed, transparency and interactive nature of communication they support.

    And, Christian and Rebecca–that “standardization” is referring to the increasing use of standards for archival practice (largely for description), so maybe that one should be “use of standards” instead. Does that help?

  5. @Kate: I think also in the years of Web 1.0 there were standards. More so, there were even standards befóre the era of the web, for example the Dutch Manual… Nowadays, of course, we have ISAD(G), EAD and such — if those are what you mean — but these standards in my opinion are not related to the concept of Web 2.0/Archives 2.0. They are just other examples of a profession being professionalized.

    Even more, the biggest complaint about the whole Web 2.0 thing is, that there are SO many different tools and ways to do things, and they are all seemingly hard to connect to each other. It would be helpful to even have a standard, for example for storing profile information.

  6. yes, isn’t there a quotation that goes something along the lines of ‘the problem with standards is knowing which standard to choose’?!

    Not sure this helps for your slides, but I’m interested in how we can promote the benefits of archives2.0. or perhaps preserve the better bits of archives1.0 in archives2.0. I’d assume that most readers of this thread will agree that archives2.0 has to be a ‘good thing’, but I’m coming from an organisation where I’m afraid the results of a current (online) user consultation looks to be that actually they much prefer the archives1.0 model! Local knowledge, and (especially) local access is hugely valued. If archives2.0 is an evolution, how can we achieve the flexibility and innovation in delivery, and the wider user base we all crave, without alienating existing users and advocates?

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