Blouin and Rosenberg 2007

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Francis X. and William G. Rosenberg, eds., Archives, Documentation, and Institutions of Social Memory. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2007.

Stephen G. Nichols, "An Artifact by Any Other Name Digital Surrogates of Medieval Manuscripts"

“It has be- come patently evident that traditional deanitions of the artifact no longer suface. They are ane for what we have traditionally thought of as artifacts so long as we con- tinue to think of the artifacts in traditional ways. The problem is that many scholars have radically changed the way they conceive of artifacts and have even broadened the category (as we’ll see in a moment). It is also the case that digital media have even affected conventional ap- proaches to collection and preservation in surprising ways.” (135)

“The artifact, or unique item of historical importance, has traditionally been a unit of measure and manage- ment for determining what libraries and other reposito- ries should collect, preserve, and make accessible.” (135)

“The simple fact is that we have a crisis of quantity versus resources on a scale never before experienced. What is more, this com- pression of resources by the sheer bulk of material mak- ing claims on library budgets comes at a moment when libraries have witnessed an explosion of competing de- mands: for example, by the cost of acquiring and man- aging new technologies and systems, by the spiraling cost of acquisitions, and by the need to expand services and storage facilities. “ (135)

“In sum, libraries and archives have come under pres- sure to develop digital information applications and the infrastructures they require as quickly as possible, on the one hand, while, on the other, they are experiencing an ever-increasing demand in the volume and variety of ma- terials to be collected and preserved.” (136)


  • Funding
  • Deciding what to digitize

“Redecning the artifact in an age of electronic and optical reproduction becomes necessary in order to as- sess the magnitude of the problem and begin to seek some solutions.” (138)

“The artifact may be more complex and multiform than we’ve accustomed ourselves to thinking. We need an an- alytic account of the artifact to convey better the mul- tiple kinds of information it makes available for differ- ent—sometimes very different—kinds of users.” (138)

“Traditionally, people have viewed the artifact as a uniaed whole, an organic unity, rather than—as we are now be- ginning to think of it—as a complex object consisting of many different components, any one of which may hold intrinsic interest and be studied in and for itself. In short, one may provisionally deane the artifact as a series of multiple discrete components, each potentially a focal point for scholars and others, depending on what they are studying. “ (138)

“The fact that artifacts are complex, that they lend themselves to a variety of intellectual endeavors, means that we must think of them in terms of their parts, and not just as a whole. One way to think of the artifact, then, would be as a multiplicity of informational sets, in- cluding the material form of the object, and its contex- tual history, where known.” (138-9)

“By way of illustrating that the “organic whole” ap- proach to the artifact was itself culturally conditioned by modernity, one can look at the case of the medieval man- uscript. Far from offering an example of artifact as uni- aed whole as might be expected, medieval manuscripts continually reveal their conception and execution as ex- amples of what we have come to call surrogacy.” (140)

Example of medieval manuscript culture — “the concept of surrogacy, of copy in the stead of a fixed original, ruled the manuscript culture of the Middle Ages” (140)

“Textual mobility in manuscript culture was not accidental, not a consequence of bad technology, but intentional” (140)

“As the medieval manuscript is itself a surrogate in the sense deaned in this essay, we should have no qualms about incorporating it in the forms of surrogacy that our culture makes possible via information technology.” (142)