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Libraries in the Digital Age, LIDA 2001
Dubrovnik, Croatia, 23-26 May 2001

The Virtual Archive and National Memory: Toward A Comparative Study of Digital Library Models in North American and European Setting

Marija Dalbello
School of Communication, Information, and Library Studies
Rutgers University
New Brunswick, N.J.08901-1071


Is it true that digital libraries are for the most part "write only archives," adding to an overall deluge of electronic data and lack of relevant information? Arguably, these "information spaces" should be able to provide cultural experiences, in order to participate in the public discourses of culture. They would have to grow beyond collections from which relevant information may be retrieved efficiently, to the new metaphors of culture. This paper outlines a program for the study of the current involvement of current digital library initiatives (in North America) in creating digital history. This paper is an exploratory study of digital library as cultural agency. It aims to establish a model for the comparative study of the structures providing digital continuity to historical materials, the archival digital libraries. In the United States, there is a variety of projects, some of which have emerged in a variety of academic settings, such as The Making of America (Cornell), the Library of Congress' American Memory, and other efforts, primarily associated with universities, and memory institutions (archives, libraries and museums). The European models have a centralized approach, developing from within the national libraries. The focus of the study is on individual cultural contexts and how they are approaching the issues of managing cultural heritage. The analysis is based on existing research of social memory (Fentress & Wickham 1991), national culture (Confino 1997) and the process of invented traditions (Hobsbawm and Ranger 1983). The models are largely determined by the funding process, which calls for an analysis of national information policies with regard to funding current digital library projects. The methodology used is a combination of document analysis and website analysis and in this first phase, it develops a framework using data from the projects in the United States.

This project reports on some findings from a larger programme initiated by Marija Dalbello at Rutgers University to study comparatively digital initiatives in various national contexts. Selected national projects in Europe and East Asian contexts as well as the initiatives in the United States are studied as part of this ongoing project.

Slides accompanying this presentation are available as a file (184 K) that can be downloaded to your computer and viewed using PowerPoint, or as an online presentation. You may preview the tables and an abbreviated version of the presented paper.



Last revised: June 4, 2001
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