As we move into an increasingly digital world we sometimes forget that terms that have a clear meaning to us may be clear as mud to some of our colleagues. Many of us are using terms such as “institutional repository,” “digital collections” and “digital archive” somewhat interchangeably. But when we look at things in a larger perspective, the reality is that these terms can mean very different things to different people and/or in different contexts. These semantic challenges are starting to garner attention within the profession. They are especially relevant as our locally created digital holdings multiply and we attempt to preserve and make them accessible to users.
Recently the term “archive” and “digital archive” have been discussed at some length to help those in the field, and those working on the fringe of the field, understand the different meanings of the term in different contexts. Trevor Owens recently broke down many different meanings of “archive” – including the physical, digital, and IT related kinds. Check out his post here. In the first of a two-part post, Kate Theimer has also delved into some of the specific library & archive-related meanings of the term. Her post is available here.
This is a topic that will continue to be debated, but for now it’s a good idea to have a discussion at your institution to make sure everyone is one the same page.