Researchable Databases are Needed

During the week of 22-26 October a Workshop on Management of Special Collections for Research Purposes was held in Warsaw. Gergana Ganeva attended the workshop. Read here her blog on the trends in digitalization of primary sources.

“This workshop turned into an enlightening discussion on the trends in digitalization of primary sources. Since digitalization is closely connected to IT technologies, changes here happen very fast and ideas often change quickly.

The experience of our Polish colleagues showed us that digitalization as a haphazard scanning of primary sources is a thing of the past. Two things are expected of today’s digitalization: 1) to correctly and adequately represent the cultural and historical heritage and 2) to support and facilitate research of that heritage. Therefore the main challenge is to create researchable databases.

This is where opinions diverge. Some researchers claim that we should take the path of consolidating the resources – i.e. creating hyper systems (e.g. a data hub) that include the highest possible number of primary sources. The argument for this is clear – right now we are at a point where institutions use completely different methods of digitalization for similar primary sources, thus creating a myriad of electronic resources, which in turn causes unnecessary difficulties for researchers.

There’s also the opposite point of view – this kind of universal electronic systems and tools doesn’t work in practice. The aim of digitalization is to present primary sources in the most thorough and precise way possible. This can’t happen by including the primary sources in systems which are supposed to be able to contain everything. At least, for now, in such systems it is expected that part of the information will simply be dismissed. Different institutions are concerned that this may cause primary sources to lose their identity.”

Gergana Ganeva, University of Sofia

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