Emerging Collaborations for Accessing and Preserving Email

Emerging Collaborations for Accessing and Preserving Email 

The following is a guest post by Chris Prom, Assistant University Archivist and Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

I’ll never forget one lesson from my historical methods class at Marquette University.  Ronald Zupko–famous for his lecture about the bubonic plague and a natural showman–was expounding on what it means to interrogate primary sources–to cast a skeptical eye on every source, to see each one as a mere thread of evidence in a larger story, and to remember that every event can, and must, tell many different stories.

He asked us to name a few documentary genres, along with our opinions as to their relative value.  We shot back: “Photographs, diaries, reports, scrapbooks, newspaper articles,” along with the type of ill-informed comments graduate students are prone to make.  As our class rattled off responses, we gradually came to realize that each document reflected the particular viewpoint of its creator–and that the information a source conveyed was constrained by documentary conventions and other social factors inherent to the medium underlying the expression. Settling into the comfortable role of skeptics, we noted the biases each format reflected.  Finally, one student said: “What about correspondence?”  Dr Zupko erupted: “There is the real meat of history!  But, you need to be careful!”

Letters, memos, telegrams, postcards: such items have long been the stock-in-trade for archives.  Historians and researchers of all types, while mindful of the challenges in using correspondence, value it as a source for the insider perspective it provides on real-time events.   For this reason, the library and archives community must find effective ways to identify, preserve and provide access to email and other forms of electronic correspondence.

Source: The Signal

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Archiving the Web News. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s