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CDHI Lightning Lunch: Archival Practices in the Digital Age: Navigating Ethics and Challenges and Debating Priorities

16 October 2023 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm EDT

Please join us on Monday, October 16, 12:00 pm in the JHI Boardroom for the University of Toronto’s Critical Digital Humanities Initiative (CDHI’s) second Lightning Lunch of the 2023–2024 year on the topic of archival practices in the digital age.

Lightning Lunches are short meetings over the lunch-hour featuring the work of three scholars on a theme in current critical digital humanities scholarship. This event will be held IN PERSON with a catered lunch for all registered guests. Our speakers will address topics related to the digitization of archives. What are the hurdles and strategic considerations when it comes to digitizing archives, and should digitization be pursued across all cases? 


Kelli Babcock & Teresa Wong, “Considering the Impact of ‘Digitization Rhetoric’ on Archives”
Kelli and Teresa will discuss the historical impact of “digitization rhetoric” on archives as something to consider when pursuing digital humanities initiatives related to archives and digitization. The presentation will outline practical considerations when planning digitization projects and misunderstandings that can occur when considering digitization. The presentation will conclude with steps you can take to engage with archives and collaborate as well as success stories as examples for how to work with archives if you are interested in contributing to a digital archive. 

Claire Battershill, “Research-Informed Digitization in Multi-Institutional Critical Digital Archives”
Bringing materials together across different collections’ holdings through digitization is one of the primary arguments for undertaking such projects in the first place. Since paper can only be viewed in one location at a time, users in the pre-digital archive era were often frustrated by finding one letter in Texas and another in Paris and yet another in Lahore, and needing to travel long distances at great expense to piece together historical narratives, critical arguments, or other scholarly endeavours. But how should we bring these materials together? And once they are aggregated, should those results be made public? What is the place in current landscape for multi-institutional critical digital archives and how should these relate to the institutions’ own holdings and to broader mass digitization initiatives like Internet Archive? In this brief talk I’ll address some of these questions from the perspective of a researcher involved in collaborative resource-making, with reference to my work on The Modernist Archives Publishing Project (MAPP, modernistarchives.com

Roxy Moon, “The Digital Archive’s Audience”
This discussion will consider the audience as a framework to examine public digitization projects through, particularly regarding critical archival projects. Thinking through an imagined audience, it will question practical concerns of accessibility and usability of digital databases. Additionally, positioning the audience as an archive’s intended outcome, this presentation will question the potential uses of the archive and desires for digitization. What new engagements with primary source materials does digitization open up? Even with a push for virtually accessible materials, what can we lose, and what is our responsibility to the items themselves?

About our speakers

  • Claire Battershill is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Information and the Department of English at the University of Toronto and the 2023–24 CDHI Faculty Fellow. Her most recent book is Women and Letterpress Printing 1920-2020: Gendered Impressions (Cambridge, 2022). 
  • Kelli Babcock has been the Digital Initiatives Librarian with the University of Toronto Libraries since 2013. In this role, she coordinates the Collections U of T and Discover Archives services along with providing support and consultations for faculty digital projects. Kelli graduated with an MLIS from McGill University with a specialization in archives in 2011. She has served as president for the Archives Association of Ontario and as a member of the AtoM 3 Roadmap Committee. Her current research interests include sustainability issues in library and archives technology, and simple discoverability best practices for surfacing online digital collections and finding aids for researchers. 
  • Teresa Wong is the digital archivist responsible for ensuring sustainable access and preservation for born-digital and digitized materials within the John M. Kelly Library’s Special Collections. She has been with the Kelly Library in different capacities since 2017 as an Archival Assistant, later as a Processing Archivist, and most recently, as a contract Digital Archivist. In 2019-2020, Teresa spent a year at the J. Paul Getty Trust as a graduate intern where she further developed her expertise in and passion for digital preservation. 
  • Roxy Moon is a second-year Master of Information student and works at the Sexual Representation Collection. Their research centres on counter-archival projects and their ability to destabilize dominant cultural narratives. Their paper, “Outside the Locus of Control: Digital Palestine Archives in the Context of Israeli Occupation and Destruction,” is in the publication process with the Journal of Palestine Studies.

Because this event will be held in person with a catered lunch, please register to secure your spot. Space is very limited, so please sign up soon! Sign up on Eventbrite here (https://digitalarchives.eventbrite.ca)


16 October 2023
12:00 pm - 1:30 pm EDT
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Collaborative Digital Research Space
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