Topic Digital

Digital archives

As part of an ongoing digital transformation, many organisations have a desire to store records of historical activity and objects online. Digital archives create a living record of activity that can be used to illustrate the impact of an organisation’s work over time.

Niklas ohlrogge j 0ol Ycaihg unsplash

A huge undertaking

It can be quite daunting to be tasked with creating a digital archive for whatever organisation or subject, particularly if the historical records span decades (or even centuries).

There’s no doubt that there is a lot of work involved in locating and reviewing all of the relevant records that could or should be included in a digital archive.

Example digital archives

Internet Archive
BBC 100
Met Office Digital Library and Archive

Getting it right


Start simple

When commencing a digital archiving project, it’s likely there will be a big vision for the end product. Whether that’s an exploratory record of 50 years of contemporary music festival or publicising all the research documentation from a low-carbon energy institute.

While it’s important to keep that end vision in sight, the best way to get started is to simplify the initial delivery. Whether that’s detailing a single year at a music festival or collecting all the data on a single technology.

This ‘easy’ first-step acts as a proof-of-concept for the rest of the archive and can not only illustrate the final vision to stakeholder, but also the size of the task in hand.

BBC 100

To curate, or to collate

One important decision that needs to be made early in the process, is whether the archive should carry everything or whether it should just outline the ‘best bits’.

This decision is often best made with the needs of your audience in mind. If the archive is to be mostly used by researchers, then it will only be useful if it includes everything. If it will be popular with the general public, dipping in for 30-minutes' of exploration, you might want to opt for the curated approach.

2020 02 25 Kind4610 72dpi s RGB

Ask for help

Even with the help of a digital agency or a in-house digital team to create a digital archive, there is still often a mountain of documents, photographs, stories, video etc. to review and properly record.

Assistance is definitely required, whether that be from within an organisation, through temporary recruitment or, if the subject matter has enough outside interest, through public volunteers.