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Web 2.0 and Archives: Something like a Phenomenon?

I just spotted a posting from a fellow Antipodean, made to the Australian Archivists (aus-archivists) listserv, which has certainly raised some interesting questions surrounding web 2.0 technologies and their impact on the Archive sector…. Perhaps a debate well worth monitoring, and further exploring here, within the realm of web 2.0 itself?

See Australian Archivists listserv posting below:

Archival institutions are increasingly using social networking sites, tagging (folksonomies), blogs, wikis, and Flickr to promote their collections. Does anyone know any studies evaluating this phenomenon in the archival setting? I don’t mean the this-is-how-we-did-it, isn’t-it-exciting or look-how-many-hits-we’re-getting articles. I mean thoughtful consideration of the value of these tools and the effects they are having on our work. I’d also love some discussion on the list.

Why we have decided to use these tools? What benefits have they brought? What kind of new audiences are they attracting? How long do these audiences stick around? Is the resource taken to sustain these ‘relationships’ worth it? Do these audiences engage with us beyond the social network stuff? Do they use our databases? come in and use our collections? order quality copies? Does it matter if they don’t? How is our adoption of these tools affecting what material we choose to process and promote? With user-generated content and tagging are our formal documentation skills, cataloguing standards, thesauri, etc passΓ©? Does mashing trivialise our research collections? Any observations or leads to articles welcome. [ Helen Yoxall, Archives Manager, Registration and Collection Management, Powerhouse Museum, PO Box K346, Haymarket NSW 1238, Australia, URL:]”

After a quick (and rudimentary) search, I stumbled across a few sources that may be of interest:

  • UKOLN have a presentation “Web 2.0: Implications For The Cultural Heritage Sector”
  • The Archives & Museum Informatics Museums and the Web website, includes a paper “Towards Community Contribution: Empowering Community Voices On-Line” (AngΓ¨le Alain, Library and Archives Canada, Canada; Michelle Foggett, The National Archives of England and Wales, UK). It refers to Web 2.0 and community involvement in museums, libraries and archives e.g. the Moving Here project which has sought to “break down barriers to the direct involvement of minority ethnic groups in sharing their history on-line” and is among other projects keen to “embrace social networking in future to give users a higher profile voice to enable their knowledge to be passed down to the next generation”. (However, “specialised and appropriate training” was identified as crucial to tackling the barriers,[such as the ‘digital divide’ itself]). On the related MuseumsComputerGroup website is the article abstract “Museums and Web 2.0: Connections + Community” (by Jennifer Trant, Archives and Museum Informatics), noting both the possibilities, and challenges, surrounding the adoption of web 2.0.
  • Also of interest are the web 2.0 blogs: Library 2.0 network, Library 2.0 gang, Museum 2.0; and while I couldn’t spot an Archives 2.0-specific blog anywhere, there was an interesting posting on the Archives Hub blog and on ArchivesNext (which, as one of its aims, invites bloggers to explore “Web 2.0 applications and discussing their applicability to archival institutions”).
  • Our own dablog has highlighted one dimension of the web 2.0 impact (inspired by UCL’s Dr Andrew Flinn) i.e. in relation to urgent calls to preserve the heritage outputs of web 2.0, due to “the transient history of the increasing number of minority/dissenting voices, whose heritage is only documented via websites, blogs, wikis and social software”.
  • In true folksonomic Web 2.0 style, we can also see what’s been tagged as Archives2.0 in

Know of any other sources that discuss the impact of Web 2.0 on the Archives Sector? Or would you like to share your opinions in response to the questions posed by Helen Yoxall (above)?

13 thoughts on “Web 2.0 and Archives: Something like a Phenomenon?”

  1. Hi Joanne

    There is a very thoughtful article by Eilidh MacGlone on WIDWISAWN, about the National Library of Scotland’s experiments with YouTube. Among the conclusions is that “our catalogue is in much better shape than YouTube’s. But we think YouTube is a great place to take our filmshows, to visit and meet our users…”

  2. David Kemper says:

    Hi Joanne,

    There is a growing community of Archives 2.0 bloggers in the blogosphere. ArchivesNext is one my favourites, but there are more, including my own (shameless plug). This is an important discussion because I believe it is transforming and will continue to transform the profession.



  3. Hi,

    See this Dutch blog (with some posts in English):

    And this group on Slideshare:


  4. Hey all

    As Alexandre already mentioned, the Dutch blog “The Digital Archivist” is most certainly worth looking at.. πŸ˜‰

    On the more serious side: in the Netherlands we’ve been trying for a while now to actively have Web 2.0 technologies adapted by archival institutions: Archives 2.0

    We have our own social network ( where we share ideas, post articles, present projects, and so on. Also for the end of this year, we’re organizing a one day conference on Archives 2.0.

    We started the Archives 2.0 group on SlideShare — needs more development though — actively tag for use, etcetera, though mainly in Dutch.

    Several archives in the Netherlands are more and more involved in Web 2.0, Archives 2.0.. and we’re only now starting to share about such projects with each other. Good stuff! πŸ™‚

  5. Maureen says:

    Hi Joanne,

    Web 2.0 and archives should be featuring in a few presentations tomorrow morning at the SoA conference in York, especially one from Kiara King (Stirling) – an introduction to using Web 2.0 in your archives.

  6. @Maureen: Will this presentation come online as well, for example through SlideShare or something like that? I, for one, would really be interested in Kiara’s presentation.

  7. Maureen says:

    @Christian: I don’t know, but seeings as I’m chairing the session I’ll have the opportunity to find out! Will let you know.

  8. @Maureen: Thank you for your efforts, Maureen! πŸ™‚

  9. Maureen says:

    Hmm, I thought I’d posted again already… I guess it got lost in cyberspace (or, more likely, I forgot to press submit).

    Kiera will try to get a copy of her presentation on Slideshare soon. Meanwhile, she also has a blog –

    Also, if you’re interested in preserving Web 2.0 outputs, Brian Kelly of UKOLN will be presenting on that subject at the 3rd JISC-PoWR workshop in Manchester on Sept 12th. See

  10. @Maureen: Thank you! And yet another blog to add to my rss feeds! πŸ™‚

  11. Many thanks to all of you for these helpful resources!

    More food for thought on this:

    I recently attended an LCACE sponsored event (“Our Digital Future: new technologies for MLAs” – see my DAblog entry and interestingly, there was a presentation by Paul Vetch titled ‘Cost Effective Content Management and Web 2.0′(in 2008).

    Among other informative guidance, Paul highlighted that web 2.0 functionality doesn’t replace the need for good web design and practice (ie know your web 1.0 first!) and that good web 2.0 implementations are those that are tightly integrated with the main website and accompanied by a clear, specific initiative or one-off online events. They also require the commitment of ongoing staff time and investment, but conversely offer the benefits of interoperability, increased exposure and greater engagement with users on their own terms and with tools they are familiar with. He concluded that web 2.0 shouldn’t be undertaken for the sake of it and should be considered as part of the curatorial process; but that we must be ‘alive to the possibilities of web 2.0’, including identifying/analysing user needs and encouraging greater user engagement. (PS: As a point of interest, he mentioned that RSS is overrated as a technology for reaching out to users directly [low uptake] but that it’s underrated as a technology for exposing your content in multiple contexts ie it’s good for repurposing your content in more than one place).

    To see the full presentation, go to:

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