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How does the online presence of a digital collection relate to the corresponding physical collection?
The related concept of original order, defined by the Prussian State Archives later in the nineteenth century, emphasized the importance of maintaining the existing internal structure of the fonds.
In the United States, the principle of provenance is used interchangeably with these two concepts.3 But these defining principles are challenged when we consider the creation and online publication of digital surrogates.
In contrast, born-digital materials are treated as additions to their collections, managed by the archives, and described using archival methods.
Additionally, the web sites for our exhibitions 11 are not treated with any descriptive formality, even though they are highly curated and often close in structure to traditional narrative publications.
Should we treat it as part of the original, or as a sort of parallel entity?
Respect des fonds—an approach articulated in the mid-nineteenth century by the French National Archives—means that an archival collection is defined, described, and maintained as a group based on the creator of the records.At Cornell, in addition to numerous textual citations from our collections, several hundred images from collections are published each year in academic and non-academic works.12 Occasionally, entire texts or edited groups of texts are published in scholarly editions or printed manuscript collections.In that sense, we are very familiar with the circulation of our collection materials in print and electronic form.And what are the conceptual implications of a digital collection existing in multiple online locations?For example, what if a collection is available via a local database, Flickr, and ARTstor?This practice was developed largely for practical reasons: to provide researchers access via the library catalog, and to have a single list of available digital resources.Given the distributed nature of digital work in the library, this practice also evolved because digital collections are maintained by the library’s central digital projects group, which is organizationally separate from the archives; they are viewed as independent entities that require maintenance and migration based on their technology platform.These digitized, artificial, and fragmented collections can take on lives of their own in different formats.For example, all of our digital collections have their own catalog record and listing in Cornell’s Registry of Digital Collections (Figure 1)10; in other words, they are treated as separate, or perhaps parallel, entities from the archival collections from which they were derived.What does it mean to disseminate the collection itself, rather than simply distributing the products of archival research?How does this relate to other modes of scholarly communication derived from archives, such as scholarly editions and the publication of selected collection items?