Kairos 17.3

Positionality within institutionally sponsored archives is a theme that resonates across the experiences of archival researchers. The dynamics that develop between users and their surrounding hierarchies influence the meanings that researchers take away from the materials they encounter in the archive. Stories reflecting the presence of these hierarchies range from researchers being denied access to archives altogether to archivists objecting to the small details of the researcher's scholarly practice. Houck (2006), for instance, reflected on the disparate treatment he received at the Hoover and F.D. Roosevelt libraries. Based on this treatment, where at one library he was "scolded for not sharpening my pencil properly" while at another was invited for pizza and beer, Houck explicated the need for researchers not to "be naive about the politics of such places" (pp. 133, 135). These stories illustrate the tenuous relationship that emerges between granting and restricting access, relationships that we must negotiate as archivist-researchers.

The tension between hierarchy and access is often discussed in terms of the difference between archives and databases. For example, Ed Folsom (2007) described archives as "difficult to access physically, often unreliably catalogued, always partial and isolated, requiring slow going." Databases, on the other hand, facilitate "access, immediacy, and the ability to juxtapose items that in real space might be far removed from each other" (p. 1577). In the production of the FSU Card Archive, the database is the central mechanism that structures the digital formation of the artifacts housed within the archive. Metadata about the cards is entered into the database which, in turn, enables that data to be configured and reconfigured by and in the service of the archive's users. Thus, the archive is revealed to users by means of the database. We are reminded here of Stephen Ramsay's (2004) words that "to use a database is to reap the benefits of the enhanced vision which the system affords" (p. 195). We can hope that our system—the FSU Card Archive—affords such an advanced vision for a much wider population than any strictly physical archive ever could.

The archive is shaped through the push and pull of access that reflects the surrounding hierarchies of the university and the user's position within these hierarchies. Like many structural hierarchies, the underlying hierarchy of our archive remains largely transparent to unregistered visitors. One exception to this rule is the fact that no card entered into the electronic archive is viewable by unregistered users until it is marked "public" by a registered user. Even so, the primary distinction between visitors and the four levels of registered users is less about having access to view materials and more about having permissions to add material.

Visitors who are not registered can only view content. Once the visitor becomes a registered user, they can begin adding to and editing the materials in the archive. As a "researcher," a user can begin tagging images. As a "contributor," users can create an exhibit as well as add and edit only the items that they have contributed to the archive. As an "Admin," users can edit items already entered into the collection as well as the preset vocabularies that appear for archivists in pulldown menus. Finally, the "Super" user has permissions to do all of this as well as edit the general "settings" for the archive. These settings include structural component plug-ins, the visual design of the site, and various security settings.

Neal ・ Bridgman ・ McElroy