Tim Sherratt (National Library of Australia) has shared the text of “Life on the Outside: Collections, Contexts, and the Wild, Wild Web,” a talk given at the Japanese Association for the Digital Humanities conference. Sherratt discusses some of the challenges to and rewards for cultural heritage institutions sharing their collections online using examples from his work at Trove, a discovery service developed and maintained by the National Library of Australia containing more than 130 million newspaper articles from 1803 onwards. For example, one article went viral on reddit, resulting in nearly a quarter million visits to Trove. Sherratt extrapolates from these examples:
I don’t want to argue that these interactions are particularly profound or remarkable. In fact I’d suggest that they’re interesting because they’re not remarkable. 130 million digitised newspaper articles chronicling 150 years of Australian history are just another resource woven into the fabric of online experience. The past can be mobilised, shared and embedded in our daily interactions as easily as pictures of cats.
People are already using our digital stuff in ways we don’t expect. The question is whether libraries, archives and museums see this hunger for connection as an invitation or a threat. Do we join the party, or call the police to complain about the noise?