Online Digital Archives and Historical Research Practice: A Case Study at Newcastle University

Coburn, Jon (2019) Online Digital Archives and Historical Research Practice: A Case Study at Newcastle University. Masters thesis, Northumbria University.

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Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Item Status:Live Archive


This study investigates how digital archival collections influence the professional practice of academic historians and library professionals by uniquely analysing beliefs, attitudes, and awareness among staff at Newcastle University.
Existing research provides fearful conclusions on historians’ use of digital collections, almost universally arguing that packages created by commercial organizations have negatively affected academic research. This study reviewed the high-profile works of Tim Hitchcock, Michelle Moravec, Elizabeth Toon, and Andrew Bingham who have been particularly influential in asserting this belief.
However, this research found little tangible evidence to support the received wisdom from existing studies. Furthermore, library professionals have so far been absent from the discussion, which limits full comprehension of how academic faculty engage with their institution’s digital archival collections.
This study held interviews with a sample of historians and library professionals at Newcastle University and performed content analysis of transcripts, using NVivo where appropriate. The findings show that historians and library professionals’ expressed beliefs and attitudes demonstrate abundant awareness of issues relating to “digital selectivity”. They account for this in their practice. This finding contradicts existing studies.
The project also finds that a lack of standardized practice has produced inadequate data for all research into this issue. It concludes that further research into historians’ information-seeking behaviour is necessary, but that standardized metadata practice must be enacted first.
As the project provides the first examination of perceptions, attitudes, and beliefs of both academic historians and library staff, it provides new insight and makes an original contribution to existing research on the subject.

Keywords:Information literacy, digital history, digital humanities, Newcastle University, Library Management, digitization, Digital archival collections
Subjects:G Mathematical and Computer Sciences > G500 Information Systems
V Historical and Philosophical studies > V100 History by period
P Mass Communications and Documentation > P110 Information Management
P Mass Communications and Documentation > P121 Library studies
P Mass Communications and Documentation > P100 Information Services
Divisions:College of Arts > School of History & Heritage > School of History & Heritage (History)
ID Code:37252
Deposited On:27 Sep 2019 10:16

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