Posts Tagged internet

A Rookie’s Review of the “Marxists Internet Archive: History Archive”

What the Marxists Internet Archive lacks in aesthetics it more than makes up for in the quantity of information it makes accessible to the public. This site offers a tremendous amount of primary documents organized several ways including by country, time period, or worker’s organization, and a tiny bit of narrative. All the categories are clearly laid out on the home page and with the click of a mouse a visitor to the site can browse through government documents from the Soviet Union, letters to Juan Peron through the Argentina link, historical resources about Capitalism or a number of other data and information. This site is in every way, shape, and form an archive, with the exception of that tiny little complaint from professional archivists that Daniel Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig point out in their website, Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web, about provenance.

Provenance is “a firm history of the custody of a coherent body of materials since their origin.” (Daniel Cohen, Digital History) When a person, group, or entity wants to make information accessible to the public on the web, provenance can be an issue since, the person, group, or entity does not actually have to have the document in custody to be able to make it accessible to the public. What an internet archive provides is access to the document, with the proper permissions and citations, of course, and not necessarily a historical line of succession. The Marxists Internet Archive does just that in a simple to read and easy to access format.

In keeping with the practicality of Marxism this website keeps it, well, practical. The home page lists out all the categories which have been hyper-linked to their own respective archives. For example, when one clicks on the U.S.A.  category, one is taken to a site with a similar setup where categories are hyper-linked either to documents or entire archives on that topic. Different categories offer different types of information, mostly consisting of primary documents, but some categories, such as Algeria, for example, offer a bit of narrative to fill in the gaps and provide context. For added ease, this site provides on its home page a Google search engine that can search through the archives contained within it for certain terms or phrases. This archive certainly takes advantage of the digital platform by offering what Cohen and Rosenzweig call the “two intrinsic advantages of the digital medium: accessibility and searchability.” (Daniel Cohen, Digital History)

This site has already amassed such a great quantity of information it is difficult to perceive that there should be any limitations at all, but there are. Although this is an online archive, there must be a human at the back-end of it to find, research, transcribe, format, organize, digitize, upload, and maintain all of the information that is so readily accessible at my fingertips. The evidence for this somewhat minor detail is at the bottom of the home page of this site where the administrator is calling for volunteers to help with the research and upkeep of the site. On the positive side, this archive may survive several generations of volunteers without the worry of documents being physically destroyed or a fire consuming the entire collection. On the negative side, there is always that pesky delete button to worry about.

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