Panel Style

Thursday, January 7, 2010: 3:20 PM
San Diego Ballroom Salon B (Marriott)
Margaret O. Adams , National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, MD
Part 2: Discussion/Roundtable. The second half of the session will entail a wide-ranging discussion of the implications attendant to the advent of electronic archival sources. The discussion between presenters and participants will revolve around a fundamental question: “How do fully digitized communications affect the historian’s craft?”

- What criteria should the historian apply to determine whether an exclusively digital document is real? How should historians evaluate documents that do not necessarily bear traditional indications of authorship, transmission, reception, consideration, or response? (For example, electronic-only documents lack marginal comments, it is not necessarily clear whether the recipient read the document, in some cases it may be difficult to establish whether the addressee even received a communication, and determining whether a document is a draft or a final version, as well as who contributed to its creation, can be problematic.)

- How is the historical record altered when the creators of documents become increasingly responsible for categorizing, organizing, and retention of documents?
(The rise of electronic-only records coincides with the decline of traditional recordkeeping structures typically utilized by institutionalized bureaucracies such as secretarial pools, office-level records managers, subject- or functionally-organized filing schemes, etc.).

- How might historians address the methodological, practical, and theoretical issues raised by these electronic-only documents given the rapidly approaching advent of e-mail records?

- How do researchers find, utilize, and cite materials that were not necessarily archived with historians’ needs in mind?

- What are the best ways to disseminate knowledge across the historical community about how to maximize the advantages and minimize the deficits of electronic-only documents?

Final portion of description continued under “Office of the Historian Presenter”