Virtual Reunification: Bits and Pieces Gathered Together to Represent the Whole.
Punzalan, Ricardo L.
AbstractThis dissertation examines virtual reunification as a strategy to gather together dispersed archival photographic images online. It draws insight from the ethnographic images of Dean C. Worcester, which are currently dispersed among ten libraries, archives, and museums. This study identifies and examines the barriers and challenges to online reunification that confront institutions that vary in terms of organizational missions, nature and size of holdings, digitization priorities and strategies, and provisions of access to collections. Two sources of qualitative data, gathered from 2010 to 2012, support this research: archival research in various owning repositories and semi-structured interviews with heritage professionals directly responsible for the Worcester collections, representatives from funding organizations, and academic researchers. By examining several repositories and analyzing stakeholders’ pre-reunification concerns, this dissertation provides insight into the prevailing challenges of virtual reunification as an inter-institutional collaborative endeavor. This study shows that certain determinate conditions hinder future efforts to reunify the Worcester collection. The obstacles that prevent reunification include: 1) multiple and sometimes misaligned visions of outcomes, 2) ambiguous relationship between the Worcester images and the source communities they document, 3) owning institutions’ lack of access to these communities, 4) repositories’ relative sense of the value and significance of the images, and 5) lack of confidence and expertise among heritage workers to represent indigenous groups online. Heritage professionals and administrators view virtual reunification as a way to accomplish local institutional functions and responsibilities. However, funding agencies expect reunification projects to extend beyond facilitating normal institutional tasks to demonstrating novelty of process and innovation of access. The misalignment of motivations between respondents from owing institutions and funders implies that reunification efforts must satisfy multiple purposes and complex outcomes. The absence of formalized relationships between source communities and owning institutions constitutes another barrier. Curators, archivists, librarians and collections managers in owning institutions manifest a lack of confidence in representing indigenous groups who are unfamiliar and inaccessible to them. In this light, virtual reunification of the Worcester images will likely facilitate exchange of metadata among owning institutions and create a platform of access for source communities.
Virtual ReunificationEthnographic Archival ImagesInter-institutional CollaborationArchival Photographs, Digitization and RepresentationDean C. Worcester, Ethnographic Images of the Philippines
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