A modern day equivalent of Leonardo’s notebooks? Bringing an “archival mind” to the evolving scholarly record

As I listened in on the #esrworkshop last night, I heard phrases like “the archive,” “digital curation,” and “archival paradigm.” Archivists are experts at intellectually tying together many elements of a whole collection. The collection is not sitting in boxes and volumes lined up on shelves in an institution any more. How can anybody link up the pieces of the scholarly record, when they are physically distributed and hardly physical at all?

I’m an accidental archivist and a rare book and manuscript librarian. In the mid 90s the Institute for Advanced Study hired me to slog through Felix Gilbert’s papers and the Institute’s own records, including materials related to Einstein. I barely made a dent, but I became accustomed to collection-level management of institutional records and faculty papers, which are rife with different series (boxes of correspondence, offprints, notebooks, pictures, grant reports, Nobel prizes, and so on) that diverse stakeholders are now discussing as components of “the scholarly record.”

These days, nobody can collect all of it.

Here at OCLC Research, we set out to develop a common language for the community to use when discussing distributed responsibilities for curation and preservation of “the stuff.” Like colleagues globally, archivists have been pondering stretchy and porous boundaries of a scholarly “record” for years. We’re used to managing large heterogeneous collections – entire organic oeuvres of creators – as collections. So I approached our work on the new scholarly record from an archival point of view.

Recently Lara Michels gave a presentation at NCTPG that referred to Terry Cook’s call to flip from a “paper mind” to a “digital mind.” Terry argued that we are moving from processing digital materials like paper collections, to bringing those distributed and ineffable characteristics of digital collections to the management of all our collections.

I suppose this shift from the paper mind to the digital mind is comparable to what’s underway with the scholarly record. The content of the scholarly record, modeled in the image from our essay, looks an awful lot like a fond to me: collections and series; process, outcomes and results. The pieces are all holistically linked by context, creator and function.

Figure 1 outcomes-1 rev jjm for blog with outline

But it is not managed at the scale of any one institution any more. These days a scholar’s…

• research data “series” might live in a discipline-specific or national data repository, or
• project documentation in an institution’s archives, or
• offprints in a discipline-specific or institutional repository, or
• digitized primary sources in a digital library, or
• publications with publishers and scholarly societies, or
• what might have been correspondence and reviews in blogs and on twitter,
• etc.

What ties such a collection together? Context.

I think that there is a great deal to be learned from participating in this high-level ecosystem, where roles are changing. Can an archival mind have empathy for the complex decisions about collecting the scholarly record that are facing our users, creators, and administrators?


In addition to resources cited in the essay The Evolving Scholarly Record, here are a few more (from the, ahem, heterogeneous scholarly record) that we consulted along the way:

Terry Cook. 1994. “Electronic Records, Paper Minds: The Revolution in Information Management and Archives in the Post-Custodial and Post-Modernist Era.” Archives and Manuscripts 22 (November): 300-328. archivo.cartagena.es/files/36-164-DOC_FICHERO1/06-cook_electronic.pdf

David de Roure. 2012. “Big Data, e-Research and New Digital Scholarship.” www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJvvF41sAvs

Stefan Gradmann. 2014. “From containers to content to context: The changing role of libraries in eScience and eScholarship.” Journal of Documentation 70:2, 241 – 260. dx.doi.org/10.1108/JD-05-2013-0058

Clifford A. Lynch. 1994. “Rethinking the Integrity of the Scholarly Record in the Networked Information Age.” Educom Review (March/April). net.educause.edu/apps/er/review/reviewArticles/29238.html

Clifford A. Lynch. 2006. “Research Libraries Engage the Digital World: A US-UK Comparative Examination of Recent History and Future Prospects.” Ariadne 46. www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue46/lynch

Clifford A. Lynch. 2012. “”Memory Organizations and Evidence to Support Scholarship in the 21st Century.” [Windsor Lecture at the UIUC iSchool] waterfall.lis.illinois.edu/dl/events/windsor_lecture/windsor_apr17_12.mp3

Nancy Maron and K. Kirby Smith. 2008. Current Models of Digital Scholarly Communication: Results of an Investigation Conducted by Ithaka for the Association of Research Libraries. www.sr.ithaka.org/research-publications/current-models-digital-scholarly-communication

Avra Michelson and Jeff Rothenberg. 1992. “Scholarly Communication and Information Technology: Exploring the Impact of Changes in the Research Process on Archives.” American Archivist 55 (spring): 236-315. archivists.metapress.com/content/52274215u65j75pg/?p=a2a538ae2458470b858f14b489c070e4&pi=29

Gerard Olelsik, Natasa Miliç-Frayling and Rachel Jones. 2012. “Beyond Data Sharing: Artifact Ecology of a Collaborative Nano-photonics Research Centre.” In CSCW ’12 Computer Supported Cooperative Work, Seattle, WA, USA, February 11-15, 2012. dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=2145204.2145376

Abby Smith Rumsey. 2013. Reports on Summer Institutes [SCI 1 (2003 ) – SCI 9 (2011)]. University of Virginia Library: Charlottesville. libra.virginia.edu/catalog/libra-oa:3260

Herbert van de Sompel, Sandy Payette, John Erickson, Carl Lagoze and Simeon Warner. 2004. “Rethinking Scholarly Communication: Building the System that Scholars Deserve.” D-Lib Magazine 10:9 (September) www.dlib.org/dlib/september04/vandesompel/09vandesompel.html

David Weinberger. 2013. “Cliff Lynch on preserving the ever-expanding scholarly record.” Joho the Blog. www.hyperorg.com/blogger/2013/03/06/2b2k-cliff-lynch-on-preserving-the-ever-expanding-scholarly-record/

About Jennifer Schaffner

Jennifer Schaffner was a Program Officer with the OCLC Research Library Partnership. She worked with the rare books, manuscripts and archives communities. She worked with OCLC Research from 2007 to 2015.

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