The new preview issue of Digital Humanities Quarterly features an article from Kate Holterhoff (Georgia Institute of Technology), “From Disclaimer to Critique: Race and the Digital Image Archivist,” in which she argues that archivists and curators ought to shift away from their reliance on disclaimers for offensive objects in collections, and, instead, leverage metadata and annotations in order to contextualize archival materials and thereby serve as better allies for oppressed.
From the abstract:
While the massive and difficult task of finding, documenting, and centralizing collections is certainly of great concern to image archivists, and has been the motivating factor for beginning numerous digital humanities projects, strategies and best practices for archiving challenging or offensive visual objects (images that are non-canonical, violent, and ambiguous) remains under-theorized. Using the Pitt Rivers Museum, the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia, Harpweek, the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, and Visual Haggard: The Illustration Archive as case studies, I address the question of how digital image archivists ought to approach the task of curating objects with the potential to cause trauma. I bring together several critical strands–most importantly visual culture, race theory, and archival science–to question how the structure of a digital archive database might best achieve the goals of educating the public, supporting social justice, and enabling the researches of humanities scholars.