Online archives are very useful for historians, students, or people that simply take an interest in their content. In class we looked at three different archives that each serve different purposes. They are all very useful however also very limited in their own ways. Archives often hold a plethora of information, as those in the syllabus clearly do, however each archive is very different. These are ancestry.ca, The Darwin Correspondence Project, and the Medici Archive Project.
Ancestry.ca is probably the most common one on this list that many people know about as it has television commercials informing its population of the uses. This archive has history of births, deaths, marriages, major events, etc., that people can subscribe to. The idea of the site is to pay a monthly fee and add as much personal information about yourself and your family, and the archive will pull “clues” as to your history. This is more of a personal search engine, assisting in finding personal family history. There could be a way that it is useful for historians if they decided to use the website or add to its information pool. The limitations of this, however are that it is costly. There is a monthly fee for personal familial information as well as the fact that we do not know where it is coming from. It pulls from a historical collection that is also prevalent on the website, which can be added to by others as well as new information surfaces. Overall, I don’t think this is a very good archive. Having to pay a monthly fee for your own family’s information seems unfair, however it is out of convenience as there is not much searching to do.
The Darwin Correspondence project is probably my personal favourite out of the three. This is an archive where people are using the letters and works of Darwin to publish his information and make sense of some of the work he did. This is very useful for historians that are looking to study Darwin in any way, as it provides a fair share of information itself as well as other sources to find more information. It is run by a group of professors and doctors in their field who took an interest in Darwin’s letters, and therefore this can be a reliable source of information. It is very useful to historians in this way, as they can examine the works of their colleague’s specialized fields. There are some things that are missing and the publishers even ask for help in finding them, which would be the only downfall to the site other than its being completely related to Darwin. There isn’t any other information than his which is understandable in a Darwin-related archive.
The final archive is the Medici Archive project. This is designed to explore the humanities and is a formal archive of such. There is not much to be done except finding out what is it as it is a locked database that requires a login for entry, however it does state that it features over 4 million letters on political, diplomatic, gastronomic, economic, artistic, scientific, military and medical culture. This would be very useful for historians studying in the field as it is a massive collection of primary sources. Unlike the Darwin Correspondence Project, it gives a greater allowance to analyze these primary sources and do one’s own research rather than reading about that done by other historians. This could be a limitation however for someone looking for some sort of analysis.
Overall these archives have a plethora of historical data that can be useful in different situations. They are all vastly different however similar and very useful in their own individual ways. They help show what digitizing history can do for those in the field of study as well as people that have a desire to learn about history. This can be said whether it is their own history or they want to study someone else’s work. Archives are a very useful tool.