I don’t know if this is even possible, or already in the process of being created, but its something I’ve been kicking around in my head. I don’t have the talent to build something like this, but since its been kicking around in my head so long I might as well post about it. I, and just about everyone else in the archival world, would love to see a unified digitization platform that combined finding aids and digitized portions of the collections all into one thing. This will be especially important as more and more born digital objects are donated to collections.
The idea that I’ve had in my head may not be feasible, but its whats in my head. My dream is something like the Evince document viewer, which shows images and pdfs but allows no editing, built into each finding aid and then when you click on a document it just opens up and you’re allowed to look at it right there in the finding aid. You would still have archival control over these born digital documents, still putting them into intellectual organization. Sound and video clips could use something like an embedded VLC player that can display almost anything. I would have our own players instead of having people download these files themselves for two reasons, the first being that they might not have a program that can open this file. But if we take care of that problem ourselves by using open source solutions, the patron doesn’t have to worry about it. Secondly, there is the problem of user registration and permissions. Before we allow people to reproduce the physical materials in a collection, they have to sign a reader registration form and a reproduction agreement. I don’t think its too restrictive to have people create an account before they download items, in effect signing a reproduction agreement. They will have at least had the legal language put in front of their face, whether they choose to read it or not. It also would allow the archivists to gather statistics more detailed statistics than things like Google analytics can give.
All of this sounds great, but it will never get going until somebody creates it. I think something like Greenstone could be a good basis for a project like this to start with, but it would probably end up having to be designed from the ground up. Maybe I should get back to trying to teach myself how to code, and perhaps concentrate on web applications.