Forensic approaches to evaluating primary sources in internet history research: reconstructing early Web-based archival work (1989–1996)
This article examines early digital archival practices, especially those related to historical sources digitised and published to the World Wide Web in the 1990s. Without well-documented professional standards for the digitisation and publication of archival materials online during this period, many archival workers developed innovative, yet idiosyncratic methods of arranging and presenting archival material. Using historical methods informed by digital forensics, this article reconstructs the development practices of one such group of archival workers. The article is structured around a case study examining digitised archival materials pulled from the personal records of American psychologist Timothy Leary, published to Leary.com in the mid-1990s. Forensic analysis of the interface and contents of Leary.com is used to ascertain the dates of development, as well as the specific techniques employed. Next, analysis of the archival arrangement bestowed upon the Web site contents is compared against the professional guidelines generally followed by American archivists, highlighting key differences between the ad-hoc practices of non-institutional archivists and the more formalized procedures followed by peers at established institutions. In conclusion, the article argues that this case study is valuable insofar as it establishes both methodological and historical precedents for deeper engagement with primary sources in Internet history research.
Digital archives, digital forensics, Web history, American counterculture
James A. Hodges. "Forensic approaches to evaluating primary sources in internet history research: reconstructing early Web-based archival work (1989–1996)" Internet Histories (2020): 119-134. https://doi.org/10.1080/24701475.2020.1784539