Online content plus a motivated community equals a very powerful
collaboration.
Research libraries can also build content around communities. The Institute of
Museum and Library Services has recently funded an innovative project at the
University of California, Santa Cruz to digitize material from the Grateful Dead
Archive and make it available on a Web site, the Virtual Terrapin Station. What
makes this project so exciting is that the “Deadhead” community is invited to
participate in building the collection. The Grateful Dead were distinctive in
allowing fans to photograph and record their concerts. The project will provide
tools to the public to encourage their contributions and the curation of a large,
socially constructed archive. The group’s musical legacy is worthy of preservation,
but so too is the social/cultural phenomenon surrounding them. By building
content around this community of fans, a much richer historical record will be
preserved and made accessible. This ability to connect content and community is a
key theme in the digital domain. Other examples of this phenomenon are seen in
the development of “digital memory banks” to document significant events, such
as those that have been established to upload stories, photographs, and
documentation on 9/11 and hurricanes Katrina and Rita.10
A third example of building community is represented in the Rose Goldsen
Archive of New Media Art.11 The Goldsen Archive has provided a safe harbor for
an international community of independent digital media artists for close to a
decade. The Web site offers community and private space for artists to work,
share, discuss, experiment, vent, adapt, perform, exhibit, and preserve their
work. A key to the site’s success is providing a trusted, secure environment for a
highly distributed fringe group of creative artists. This international community
of over 1,250 artists and theorists working at the edge of contemporary practice
connect with each other through an online new media e-mail list, -empyre-. The
University of New South Wales in Australia maintains the server for the group
and the current moderators are two faculty members at Cornell University. This
past January, the group was asked to share New Year’s resolutions on new
media art. Many responded, including a digital artist from India who wrote, “I
promise I’m not afraid of prolonged power cuts.” Another from Europe vowed
that “between 1:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m., I will not delete files I think I won’t need
again.” And a third, somewhat jaded artist from Australia commented, “I’m glad
hardly any institutions really bothered to collect Internet art—it will make it so
much more valuable in the future.” These and other postings revealed how
RLI 267
26
The Collaborative Imperative: Special Collections in the Digital Age
(
C O N T I N U E D
)
DECEMBER 2009 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A BIMONTHLY REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC
Previous Page Next Page