Participatory Archives: Theory and Practice

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The internet as a platform for facilitating human organization without the need for organizations has, through social media, created new challenges for cultural heritage institutions. Challenges include but are not limited to: how to manage copyright, ownership, orphan works, open data access to heritage representations and artifacts, crowdsourcing, cultural heritage amateurs, information as a commodity or information as public domain, sustainable preservation, attitudes towards openness and much more.

Participatory Heritage uses a selection of international case studies to explore these issues and demonstrates that in order for personal and community-based documentation and artifacts to be preserved and included in social and collective histories, individuals and community groups need the technical and knowledge infrastructures of support that formal cultural institutions can provide. In other words, both groups need each other.

Divided into three core sections, this book explores

  • participants in the preservation of cultural heritage, exploring heritage institutions and organizations, community archives, and groups;
  • challenges, including discussion of giving voices to communities, social inequality, digital archives, and data and online sharing; and
  • solutions, discussing open access and APIs, digital postcards, the case for collaboration, digital storytelling and co-designing heritage practice.


1 Defining and framing participatory archives in archival science Edward Benoit III and Alexandra Eveleigh 2 Social tagging and commenting in participatory archives: a critical literature review Alex H. Poole 3 Social tagging and commenting: theoretical perspectives Ina-Maria Jansson and Isto Huvila 4 Project Naming: reconnecting indigenous communities with their histories through archival photographsBeth Greenhorn 5 (Hash)tagging with the users: participatory collection of digital social photography in museums and archivesBente Jensen, Elisabeth Boogh, Kajsa Hartig and Anni Wallenius  6 Engaging curation: a look at the literature on participatory archival transcriptionSumayya Ahmed 7 Subtle transformations: increasing participation and access through transcriptionLorraine A. Dong 8 Crowdsourcing metadata for time-based media in the American Archive of Public BroadcastingCasey Davis Kaufman and Karen Cariani 9 Participatory transcription in Amsterdam and CopenhagenNelleke van Zeeland and Signe Trolle Gronemann 10 Kickstarting archives: crowdfunding and outreach in the digital ageHeather L. Barnes 11 Crowdfunding and the moral economies of community archival workStacy Wood 12 Acquiring equipment for obsolete media through crowdsourcingLaura Alagna 13 Thinking outside the box: crowdfunding the Peter Mackay ArchiveKarl Magee 14 Degrees of mediation: a review of the intersectionality between community and participatory archivesEdward Benoit III and Ana Roeschley 15 Activist participatory communities in archival contexts: theoretical perspectivesAndrew Flinn and Anna Sexton 16 Documenting a social movement in real time: the Preserve the Baltimore Uprising 2015 archive projectJessica Douglas 17 Community partnerships and collection development in the Legacy of Ahmed ProjectHannah Niblett and Jennifer Vickers 18 Challenges, opportunities and future directions of participatory archivesEdward Benoit III and Alexandra Eveleigh Index

Edward Benoit III

Edward Benoit, III is assistant professor at the School of Library & Information Science at Louisiana State University. He is the coordinator of both the archival studies and cultural heritage resource management MLIS specializations. He received an MA in history, MLIS, and PhD in information studies from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. His research focuses on participatory and community archives, nontraditional archival materials, and archival education. He is the founder and director of the Virtual Footlocker Project that examines the personal archiving habits of the 21st century soldier in an effort to develop new digital capture and preservation technologies to support their needs.

Alexandra Eveleigh

Alexandra Eveleigh is Collections Information Manager at Wellcome Collection in London, where her role complements her research interests in user experiences and digital technologies in library, archive and museum contexts. From 2014 to 2016, she held academic positions in Information Studies and Digital Humanities at University College London and the University of Westminster respectively, following her PhD research at UCL in collaboration with The National Archives entitled "Crowding Out the Archivist? Implications of Online User Participation for Archival Theory and Practice" (2015). Prior to this, she worked in both university and local government archives in the United Kingdom, and was awarded a 2008 Winston Churchill Fellowship in connection to her work on born digital archives.

"The authors' contributions cut across archival science, museology, and related disciplines like computing and library science. These essays place users— producers and consumers—at the heart of an archival mindset ... [This book] contributes significantly to the archival literature, especially in the current context of digital transformations focusing on openness, participation, and collaboration."
— The American Archivist

"In Participatory Heritage, editors Henriette Roued-Cunliffe and Andrea Copeland have created a valuable resource for archivists and other cultural heritage professionals navigating the treacherous intersection between the institutionalized repository and the eager and well-intentioned amateurs gathering and disseminating focused historical content via storefronts, websites, or social media."
— Brady M. Banta, Arkansas State University, Archival Issues

"This is a book of interesting and useful lessons learned, where readers can benefit from what the authors suggest they could have done differently ... a valuable addition to the literature, and I hope it is widely used."
— Sarah R. Demb, Information Management Magazine

"As this highly selective summary demonstrates, there is much in this volume for readers with a variety of interests, although not every case study will be of relevance to all ... Nonetheless, there is real value in reading the studies as a whole. It will be thought-provoking for most readers, whether around the boundaries of our professional self-definition, the need to listen to communities in developing our work with them, or our understanding of linkages across the spectrum of what may be defined as heritage practice."
— Melinda Haunton, The National Archives, Archives and Records

"If you work in a college or university library and have ever tried to partner with a community group or heritage organization or are contemplating doing same, you will probably be well served by looking into this slim volume."
— Michael Ryan, New York Historical Society Museum and Library, College & Research Libraries