Thursday, August 16, 2007

Liberté, égalité, accessibilité!

Attention history nerds!

Here's a neat online collection of images from the French Revolution and essays about images of the Revolution: Imaging the French Revolution: Depictions of the French Revolutionary Crowd.

Yeah, I'm not really fond of the use of the word "imaging" either; but Lynn Hunt and Jack Censer are good scholars and it's a pretty fascinating collection of images and essays.


Holly said...

OK. I have to ask. And I know it's going to sound confrontational, and maybe it is a little bit, but... don't worry about that. Focus on the question.

Is this one of those things that people should have to go to Paris to see? Because making stuff electronically available isn't such a great idea?

While I can agree that seeing stuff first hand, in the original (or believed-to-be-original) format is the preferable experience, I'm not sure it's necessary. But more than that, I believe that is prohibitive to people who can not muster the resources to make a trip to Paris, or London, or Berlin, or Yucatan, or wherever an original of a thing lives. If it comes down to the ability to travel, to experience something like that, it seems kind of... discriminatory?

There are people who can't afford to go, people who can't deal with going, people who will not be exposed to those things at all, if they don't go. Unless it's rendered digital and distributed one way or another. Are those people inherently unworthy, simply because international travel is beyond their means? Sure, the VAST majority of people on the planet won't look at historical archives, in any format, for any reason, even if you had the magna carta laminated and put it under their breakfast cereal. But the people who would look... deserve to see. I think--since we unequivocally have the means to provide more or less universal access.

I don't believe the plan is to create a digital archive and then destroy the originals. (Although I would support that, in the case of fine art, but that's a different issue.) UNM actually did have a situation where the Southwest Studies special collection, which contains a spectacular assortment of (among other things) conquistadoria and native-culture documents, has been laboriously and meticulously digitally archived over 6 years or so... and they weren't quite done, but nearly, when someone awesome set fire to the humanities library, and while the fire didn't damage the collection, the sprinkler system did. Irreplaceable things, which can at least be viewed digitally. It's difficult (for me, anyway) to argue against that.

And, for whatever it is worth, I don't believe you ARE arguing against *that*. Is it something about how, once everything is available in digital format, the chances of them letting pilgrims (like you) in to worship the bricks that history is made of, goes down substantially?

Rufus said...

These are fascinating questions- I wrote a long response that is further up the main page.