Redefining Primary Sources for Future Historical Research

Saturday, January 4, 2014: 12:10 PM
Thurgood Marshall Ballroom East (Marriott Wardman Park)
Amalia S. Levi, University of Maryland at College Park
Scholars conducting transnational research have to work with dispersed material, some digitized, many not. Although networked initiatives aim to make interoperable disparate archival holdings, today new kinds of records are being created online through social media, and reified in fleeting digital objects, such as tweets, or Facebook posts. These digital ephemera are unmediated, first-hand narrations of individual or communal lives, and will eventually become the cultural heritage of the future. They are being lost however with alarming speed, and are usually not regarded as primary sources in historical research. This means that current scholarly communication practices will affect how the present will be remembered in the future. I argue that archives must promote the preservation, contextualization, and curation of social media output; semantically link these digital objects to existing collections; and involve users in this process by providing enabling technologies.