FAQ

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What is the AHA's Archives Wiki about?

Archives wiki aims to become a standard, up-to-the-minute reference guide to research archives and their holdings. Typically, such information is exchanged via (often exclusive) word-of-mouth networks, or through fixed and less flexible media, such as printed works or mailing lists. Ideally, this wiki will help to democratize access to knowledge about archives, to sidestep restrictive measures of those who control certain archives, and to help researchers avoid duplicating discoveries. For more on the rationale behind the wiki, see the original two-part proposal ( 1 and 2 ) on the AHA's blog.

What sort of articles are included?

A typical article contains a variety of practical information about conducting research at a particular archive.

Who edits this wiki?

The community that can contribute to this wiki includes thousands of archivists, historians and other researchers, many of whom already exchange information about archives in person or using mailing lists.

How much do I need to know to contribute?

There is no threshold. In many ways, current graduate students--those currently using archives and most at ease with technology--are better situated than senior scholars to contribute to the Archives wiki.

What if I have a question?

While the site is in its early stages, a mailing list may be developed to link those at the centre of the project. As certain popular pages grow, their own discussion pages should carry more traffic and go their own way.

Why should I log in?

Contributors are required to log in, in order to control the quality of information and to facilitate communication among the community of scholars interested in each archive. Those who cannot use their real names--those, for instance, who risk losing access to archives by sharing information about them--may wish to use pseudonyms. Eventually, certain archives or countries could be designated anonymous-contribution-enabled zones.

What counts as an archive?

Documentary archives, research libraries, special collections departments, and any other places researchers visit to access unique or rare material.

What should I name a page?

Because many archives have identical names (there are hundreds of "national archives" thousands of "municipal archives"), the proposed page naming structure is geographical. Pages for archives with names that are in any way ambiguous should be named according to country or city as well as with the name of archive (hence "National Archives of the United Kingdom," rather than just "National Archives.")

How do I write this gibberish?

Most archival researchers have limited experience with or time to learn markup language. For this reason, most basic functions should be as automatic as possible. Page naming might be particularly problematic, and can best be addressed through the use of templates. Country pages will contain an "add a city" button, and city pages will contain an "add an archive" button. Anecdote is to be avoided. Once they reach a certain size (15 lines?) certain headings can be given their own page. The template for each archive will be simple, consisting of only a few (5?) categories. See these sample brief template and detailed templates. Users will refer to a more elaborate list (and larger entries) in order to find ideas and conform to format. See this sample complete entry.

Can I create archive descriptions in other languages?

The ultimate aim is to be multilingual (à la Wikipedia), in order to establish momentum the wiki should start with English entries. Eventually, it may make most sense for the page of reference for each archive be in the working language of that archive.

Where do I find out about archival research tools?

ArchivesWiki might host ancillary pages concerning research-related issues, such as database design, document photography, research networks, projects in progress at certain archives, projects published drawing on certain archives, and so on.

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