Context is Everything
Archives Week gives institutions and archivists an opportunity to promote what we are and what we do. Although these are pretty interesting messages in and of themselves, Archives Week always seems to fall out of the blue in the busyness of the fall season. Where our community really seems to shine during this week is through the ASA's Virtual Exhibits. Each year, a new thematic exhibition is launched in October during Archives Week and the exhibit continues to receive considerable Internet attention throughout the year, and beyond.
The Virtual Exhibit concept started in 1997 with The W Files, profiling the weird, warped and wacky. There were lots of possibilities here as archivists inevitably have their favorite "W's" that arise in the course of their work. Fourteen institutions contributed exhibit items ranging from the autographed two-by-our to the highest outhouse in Canada. The following year there were nine poignant excerpts in Dear Diary, a refreshingly textual offering. Fifteen archives submitted items for A Sense of Place in 1999.
The Virtual Exhibit for 2000, entitled Passion Preserved, incorporated archival documents illustrating impassioned themes: loyalty, mania, yearning, wrath, pique, love, grief, desire, agitation, indignation, lust, fervour and obsession. Gee, these sound like new candidates for the ANA subject list! Last year's exhibit, Extreme Archives featured weather, conditions, determination, courage, heroism, landscape, sports and inventiveness, all in the extreme. This year's exhibit, A Feast for Your Eyes : Food in Archives, provides a smorgasbord of archival delicacies. If you haven't visited the ASA's virtual exhibits lately, go there and take your friends, too.
The virtual exhibit concept gives us a chance to think about digitized documents and hint at their context, something not always possible in other digital opportunities. With new digitization initiatives spearheaded by ASA, and forming part of national programs, we will truly have our chance to ensure the context of records receives its due, through links with our automated descriptive tools. After all, we spend most of our time striving to preserve that context. Why not go the extra distance and ensure its survival in web-based presentations? Editor's Comment : Don Bourdon, Editor
To ASA Virtual Exhibits