The Adaline H. Perkins Rand Photography Archives is now the Adaline H. Perkins Rand Photography and Digital Archives; an expanded name for an expanded mission. This name change represents the merger of the existing Photography Department with the new Department of Digital Initiatives. But what is a New Bedford Whaling Museum digital initiative, and why would it need a department of its own? Further, why is the digital archive linked to the photography archive; what is the connection?
Today’s Digital Era, characterized in part by an explosion of media types and applications, leads us to recognize the need for an institutional archive dedicated to electronic files. Linking of the Digital and Photographic Archives began as a result of a shared dependance on and connection to technology.
Within the Photography Archives, the history of photography can be viewed as a series of technological advancements. Arguably, over the last 170 plus years, there has been no greater shift in how photographs are made, or distributed, than what we have experienced recently. Silver based film has given way to electronic capture and digital media, and through the growth of the internet, the computer monitor now challenges for primacy in how people encounter museum collections. Currently there are more online visitors than visitors through our front doors, and this gap will only continue to grow as our web-based content increases along with our ability to create and manage it. The Department of Digital Initiatives recognizes that we must continue to create and sustain compelling content for this growing audience.
A broad definition of a digital initiative would be any project, process, or enterprise that is computer borne, or has migrated to the computer, and that improves access to museum collections, information, programs, or products. Much as Gutenberg’s printing press altered civilization forever, now the computer, through the web, changes how information and knowledge are created and shared. The web, like the printing press before it, substantially increases the distribution of all kinds of information, including access to primary source materials as well as related scholarship.