What a rich conversation; thank you all. Please keep it coming...
Much of the wiki created for the SHC/NC symposium is available < http://shc2009symposia.pbwiki.com/ > though some seems to be restricted to account holders. It's a great resource.
Elizabeth H. Dow
School of Library and Information Science
Louisiana State University
From: Encoded Archival Description List on behalf of Joyce Chapman
Sent: Tue 4/21/2009 10:15 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Ethical issues raised by EAD encoding
In February we had a fascinating symposium at the University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill on the legal and ethical implications of large-scale
digitization of the Southern Historical Collection that discussed precisely
this, though rather in the context of putting the actual materials out
there, not just the finding aids.
I do not believe the slides and speaker notes are publicly available to
date, but I can point you to a four-part blog entry by Merrilee Proffitt
that gives an excellent overview of what was discussed. See her blog
hangingtogether.org, the first post
http://hangingtogether.org/?p=624 will point you to the others.
In a rather abstract sense, my personal belief is that we have already
answered questions relating to our professional commitment to protecting
third-party privacy. By deciding to have unrestricted access to such
materials in our reading rooms, we should have already dealt with the weight
and ethics of third party privacy issues. If we feel a new discomfort with
the dawn of digital access, this should cause us to reexamine the decisions
we have made previously, and to examine the roots of our discomfort.
At least for public archives, our materials are technically open to
everyone. That means the the first time we made the decision to have these
materials open to research, we were legally saying we felt comfortable with
the ramifications of anyone in the world having access to them. In a de
facto sense, the situation with non digital materials or analog finding aids
is that only certain subsets of society have the educational resources to
figure out that this stuff is here, and the free time/economic resources to
come to our reading room and see it, or pay someone else to do that for
them. Access is undemocratic, at the moment. Access becomes much more
democratic with digital access to the materials.
So I think we need to ask ourselves whether what we were really thinking
before digital access was, "we are comfortable with everyone who fits a
certain profile looking at these materials." If that is the case, then
clearly that mentality is what needs to be reexamined, and our
processing/restriction/decision-making matrix needs to be updated according
to the reality that our materials are truly open.
In a more realistic view, I think there are not really issues with digital
access to finding aids, and more thinking to be done regarding fully
Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
2009/4/21 Elizabeth H Dow <[log in to unmask]>
> Good morning,
> A few years ago, when I encoded finding aids at the University of
> Vermont, I became aware that putting inventories on the web had the
> potential for raising privacy issues to a new level. It's one thing to
> indicate in a paper finding aid that will sit in a notebook on a shelf of an
> institution that's open 45 hours a week that one has a list of political
> donors to a contentious political campaign or a list of participants in a
> radical theater production or old personnel records for a still-active
> business, and to announce that information on the web for -- literally --
> the world to see and make of it as it will.
> Has anyone else played with this reality as it relates to our
> professional commitment to protecting third-party privacy? Has anyone
> experienced unexpected ethical ramifications of having their inventories
> I now teach EAD and, having covered the technical issues for the
> semester, want to expand students' thinking about the non-technical issues
> related to EAD.
> Thanks in advance for any pithy thoughts and/or case examples.
> Elizabeth H. Dow
> Associate Professor
> School of Library and Information Science
> Louisiana State University