Developing Local Digital Collections: A collaborative approach to the preservation and access of artist-run centre archives
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The rapid growth of opensource, online technology over the past decade has made the development of digital resources accessible to groups and communities of all sizes. The ability to preserve and access cultural heritage collections holds significant benefits for researchers, the public, and the communities that created them, but projects that require large scale digitization, metadata description, and long-term systems maintenance pose significant challenges for communities who do not typically focus on the preservation and access of digital information. This presentation will describe a current collaboration between researchers at the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) Library and PAVED Arts, a new media-focused artist-run centre (ARC). This project explores how large public institutions and local arts organizations can mutually benefit by sharing content, infrastructure, and knowledge to develop an online archive. PAVED Arts is a non-profit ARC, located in Saskatoon, whose mandate focuses on production, exhibition, research, and dissemination of contemporary photography, audio, video, electronic, and digital arts. Founded in 2003, PAVED has a large and unique collection of work created in their production centre, records of past exhibitions, a resource library, and organizational history documents in their archives. These materials are an important record of the development of new media art in Saskatoon, the prairie provinces, and Canada. ARCs, a distinctly Canadian network of art institutions, have significantly contributed to the development of contemporary art in this country. They typically focus on supporting new and experimental art and artists and most do not have a mandate to preserve or provide access to their historical records. Despite this future focus, many Canadian ARCS (including PAVED) have kept informal archives and are now turning their attention to these mushrooming collections as they mark three and four decades of activity but find themselves lacking the resources to develop and support a digital archive for long term access. To solve this problem, we needed to understand how members of the Canadian artist-run community use archives, how ARCs want to make their own collections accessible, and the challenges they have encountered trying to realize these goals. Focusing specifically on PAVED and the unique challenges that come with archiving digital and new media works, we discuss how a collaboration with the U of S Library that leverages its technical infrastructure and PAVED’s unique collections was the best solution. A community consultation with past and present board members was conducted in early 2017 to better understand the contents and history of the PAVED archive. We took this opportunity to capture tacit knowledge about the history of PAVED and develop an organizational timeline to serve as a starting point for the digital archive. Following this local consultation, we conducted a survey of ARCs across Canada to understand the value that ARC archives have for their communities, identifying preservation of and access to collections and the demonstration of organizational transparency as the main goals of publicly accessible archives. This presentation will address the conference themes of local knowledge stakeholders and public/community engagement in DH projects.
Community Engaged Scholarship
DescriptionPresented at the Canadian Society for Digital Humanities conference. May 26-28, 2018 - University of Regina, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.
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