Searching for a Black Pacific: An Alternative Archive

Digitization: Retaining Context

In his article on digitization of pre-existing archives, “The Importance of Context for Digitized Archive Collections,”[1] Mark Vajcner describes the two main principles of archival practice that must be maintained in digital archives, known as provenance. “Respect des fonds” refers to the principle that archival materials, when transferred to a new custody, remain as “distinct collections catalogued and filed according to their creator or office of origin.”[2] The next principle demands that the contents of said collections remain in their original order.

All of the document digitized and included in this archive come from the personal collection of david george morgan (save two produced by the grunt gallery). As there was no particular order when they were lent to me, I have organized them according to document type, creator/producer, or thematic relevance. Small explanations of the type of group and the intertextuality of the documents within will accompany each section. Lastly, when able I have hyperlinked relevant names, places and facts to applicable sites or medias.

Mark Vajcner’s main concern is the loss or disambiguation of context when archival materials are digitized or when entire archives are built with only digital content. While I have retained much informational context – even created much of it – it’s worth noting that much the physicality of the documents is lost through digitization. Size, texture, precise shape of each document become difficult to discern via their scanned proxies. While worthwhile nonetheless, the process of digitization removes most of the physical context of the collection at hand.

[1] Mark Vajcner. “The Importance of Context for Digitized Archival Collections.” Journal of the      Association for History and Computing , vol. 11, no. 1, Apr. 2008,
[2] Ibid., “Archives as Evidence.”

This page has paths: