What roles do structure and narrative play in these definitions?
While there are no easy answers to these questions, some examples of what has been done can point us towards next steps and future approaches.
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?
The matter is further complicated when we think about born-digital materials, their physical and intellectual separation from the paper materials in a collection, and their arrangement.
The fact that each of these collection types employs different access mechanisms from physical special-collections material—and even from other digital collection types—results in the fragmentation of archival collections.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.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.If “publishing” means issuing for public distribution or even the process of “making public,” then digital collections are also publications.If this is the case, then what are we to make of the fact that we are not publishing interpretation, but the collection itself?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?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.