Carole Palmer’s chapter, “Thematic research collections,” examines an emerging, new kind of scholarship: digital collection. Interestingly, these thematic collections, she argues, are not simply support for scholarship, but instead are vital contributions to scholarship in this digital age. As Palmer notes, these collections “have the potential to substantively improve the scholarly research process.”
I find this idea fascinating, perhaps even an important evolution in research methodology, in that traditional research in the humanities and social sciences often has consisted in hunting down and discovering scattered materials around physical archives. The new digital researcher engages in all that traditional research, but also digitizes, curates, and presents it in a format that can be accessed from anywhere in the world with an internet connection. Also, the archive can keep growing from colleagues or aficionados who wish to donate or share primary or secondary source material.
One example, from the omeka.net exhibit, “Heroes and Villians: Silver Age Comics at Atkins Library” showcases original comics and comic book heroes from the 1950s-1970s. The collection features access to original comic books published during that era, as well as a historical overview of comic books in the U.S., videos, and other resources for researchers. I found this a very fun archive, which has original material along with history and analysis of the material.
UNE’s website for the Maine Women Writers Collection is rudimentary in comparison. Everything is predicated on the physical library archive. And the website reflects that reality.