Digital archives are definitely a controversial, modern idea of historical information. A digital archive is something that most people would see as something super easy to access, all the history is right there online! However, it’s not always like that. We don’t always know where the information is coming from, and even if we do, how to we know it’s liable information? There were quite a few archives we looked at in class this week such as Darwin, Ancestry, and Medici.
To begin with Ancestry, there is not much this site does for us. This site is advertised to be a “super easy way to find out who your ancestors are!” No. This site does next to nothing for historians and really, people as a whole. Ancestry is the type of digital archive that comes from mormons and is looking to make money. Essentially, they play commercials to make you think that if you sign up, you’re going to find out you’re related to someone amazing or famous which almost never happens. However, in my case, I am related to Benjamin Franklin! Anyways, there are numerous limitations to the cite of ancestry and one of the biggest ones for historians is how little it provides to us. There is nothing that can be used off of this site if you’re not willing to pay a minimum of $14.99 a month to see it.
It’s almost the same thing with the Medici site. While this site was free to access and could provide a lot of information, the information had to be going to the right person. For a historian looking into Italy or art from Italy and the Medici family, this site might be right for you. However, for a second year history student or someone just stumbling across the web, this site is a mess. It looks like a social media site and if you don’t know what you’re looking for or have some sort of sense what you want to find, this site is just going to confuse you which is a huge limitation of the site!
Finally, Darwin’s correspondence. I really enjoyed this site simply because of the way everything flowed. If you clicked on a specific person, you could just keep looking through the site and end up somewhere completely different from where you started, or right back at the beginning. This site was also completely free to access and had loads of information. While I’m not someone entirely into science and all of that, I love evolution and so looking at this site helped me understand otherwise. There is also a search bar so that you could type in almost anything and see where it takes you in all of his letters. This site was overall amazing and was so fun to look at with little limitations.
While I know it seems like I was kind of just rating the digital archives we looked at, it’s what it almost comes down to. A historian can’t just look at any digital archive and know what they’re doing or find exactly what they’re looking for. Everyone has their preferences about wha they like and don’t like looking at, and a benefit of digital archives is that we as historians have the opportunity to search through millions of sites and blogs and more to find what we’re looking for. While some digital archives may not be for everyone, there’s always something you find that you end up loving. Ancestry.ca is not one of those archives in my books.