Searching for a Black Pacific: An Alternative Archive

Why Scalar & the Internet Archive?

A Note on Platforms 

When it became clear my research would involve digitization of primary sources, I began to also research the platforms, theories and methods that surround digital archiving.

I eventually choose to use scalar for building my “book” (as scalar terms each project) while housing the documents themselves on the Internet Archive, as the files were too large to be held by Scalar itself, and since the Internet Archive is considered an affiliate.

Obviously, each platform serves a very different function, role and purpose. Scalar allows users to upload, create and curate content for free. As it’s “About” page states: “Scalar is a free, open source authoring and publishing platform that's designed to make it easy for authors to write long-form, born-digital scholarship online.” While not specifically geared towards online exhibitions or archives, Scalar’s close affiliation with other archival sites such as the Internet Archive and Critical Commons and its flexibility and user-friendly interface made it perfect for the cross-discipline project at hand. Each project is rendered as a “book,” considered digitally published when made public. As my thesis was generated by a dual program in History and English Literature, these two platforms – scalar and the internet archive – inherently reflected the inter-disciplinary nature of creating an archive of “pamphlet literature” while literally making my work easier with a direct Internet Archive-to-scalar import function.

I likewise chose the Internet Archive for its compatibility with Scalar, and for its practical and connotative connections with traditional archival practices. The Internet Archive is also open-source, allowing users to upload unlimited materials for free and to manipulate metadata and subject tags in order to increase the item’s search-ability. The Internet Archive enabled me to upload high resolution and multi-page documents such as the magazine collection in their entirety before importing or linking them into my Scalar project for curation.

This confluence of these platforms not only abets the interdisciplinary nature of my research, but also replicates its original purpose: to provide unfettered access to the information, names, narratives and sources which constitute the history of black art production in Vancouver. The academic act of weaving together these aspects in writing is mirrored by – and then also furthered in – the physical connection of sources to stories and artists to art.

Basically, he intellectual, practical and relational network my research has created reflects and is furthered in the structure of digital archiving itself. The hyperlink and inline link connect source to source and idea to idea much in the same way my writing links artists and exhibitions, names and locations, to one another to map the history of black art production in BC.

This will be further discussed in my section on citations, in which I compare the uses and necessity of both formal citations and hyperlinked sourcing. I just found it fascinating how my original goal – to create a legible map of sorts, increasing access to and linking together the history of black art production in Vancouver with larger histories – reappeared and reinvented itself in the process of digitization.

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