Invitation to Make Meaning
The following webtext provides an account of us—the authors—conceptualizing, constructing, and producing a digital archive of old postcards as a site for research. As we developed the site we uncovered many assumptions we were making as archivists and researchers and laid them alongside of claims made by others in the field. In this process we also discovered productive tensions that became the most meaningful sites of discovery and learning for us; these boundary areas comprise the arrangement of this webtext. As you read this article and interact with the archive, we invite you to participate in the meaning-making within the FSU Card Archive process on two levels. First, we invite you to make your own meaning from this webtext through an open navigation that is explained on the next slide. Secondly, we invite you to participate in making your own meaning of the postcards within the archive and to leave something of your own expertise and interests behind for others.
Navigating the Webtext
After reading this introduction, click on the postage stamp box at right to see our color-coded postcard wheel. Each postcard is a potential point of entry, and each point of entry has four small screens of text with a corresponding image or video. We’ve designed the text so that your reading experience should be meaningful regardless of how you navigate. At any time you can go back to the postcard wheel and choose a new point of entry. For a more linear experience, click the “next” button on the bottom-right of the screen to progress clockwise through the wheel.
Colors represent the archive’s recursive phases of development: red for conception, blue for construction, and yellow for production. We invite you to click here to move through a brief, interactive tutorial. Finally, we have a link at the bottom of each page that allows you to enter the digital archive at any time to participate in making meaning.
Where Meaning is Made
As our questions suggest, the digital and physical spaces of this archive emerge at the interstices of borders that reflect multiple and overlapping contexts:
- university and community,
- modality and materiality,
- print and screen,
- time and geography, and
- positionality and hierarchy.
We suggest that these borders intersect to create the spaces from which researchers make meaning of the postcards. As this webtext unfolds, we define each of these borders in relation to three recursive phases of archival development: conceptualization, construction, and production. This is the logic of the postcard navigational wheel.
Implications of Developing the Archive
The implications of this work for us are threefold:
First, we are participating in a growing conversation on archival methodologies that focus on (a) building more productive collaborative relationships with archivists (Morris & Rose, 2010) and (b) strengthening our research through constructing archives of artifacts that deserve our scholarly attention (Bloom, 2010; Johnson, 2010).
Second, this project reflects our belief that these cards are artifacts of everyday writing and are worthy of study. This project participates in the expansion of what counts as writing worthy of research, literally taking the postcards out of the closet and celebrating them as fascinating examples of multimodal texts.
Third, this project underscores ways in which we always reconstruct the subjects of our research through the production of scholarship. In particular, we address incumbent anxieties about digitization and its implications for print artifacts such as the postcards housed within this archive.
In addition, we faced other implications as we developed the archive. For instance, our numbering system for the cards has evolved. Initially we used numbers generated automatically within the OMEKA system when clicking on "add item" for our Identification Number. That was handy because we could have several people entering cards from different locations, and this would ensure that each card would have a unique identification number. The drawbacks, however, became more apparent as we proceeded. If someone started to enter a card but then got interrupted or had to start over, we would lose that number and it would have been difficult to tell where the gaps were supposed to be.
We also had cases where cards that make sense being together in the archive could get separated if they weren't entered all in one sitting or if someone else was entering cards at the same time. We also realized that we wanted a way to organize the cards based on the card type (e.g., currently we have postcards (PC) and stereo cards (SC) but that might expand to other types of related artifacts such as postcard folders or first day covers) and also by collection (currently we have three separate collections within the archive: DS for Mr. Smith, KF for cards purchased by Kristie Fleckenstein, and GC for our general collection).
For example, the designation PC-KF 25 would be a postcard in the Fleckenstein collection; SC-DS 25 would be a stereocard from the Smith collection. The cards are organized in this way in the physical archive to make finding and perusing cards easier, and we'll be able to expand the system with new collections in the future if we choose to grow in that way. Now that this numbering system has been set into place, we'll need to go back and edit the Identification Number so it is consistent throughout. Needless to say, as the archive grows, the amount of work it takes to change even something minor in the protocol grows exponentially.
Finally, many postcards have a clear title that is printed on the card, often on the bottom left corner of the front of the card or on the top left of the back. The titles don't have to be unique in this system and indeed often are not. We have several cards titled Eiffel Tower, for example. If a card does not have a title, the archivists create one of their own based on the image on the front of the card and signal it is their creation by putting the title in square brackets. The brackets are the same convention we use when entering other texts where we are making an educated guess based on the reading of handwriting or perhaps filling in a blank that has been smudged or otherwise been rendered unreadable.