"Reimagining Archives: An Investigation on Novel Experiences of Archive towards Heritage Knowledge Production and Dissemination" is my PhD dissertation, which communicates my investigation on the relationship between institutions and public from a user-centric point of view and questions what does archive mean today, what kind of experiences archives offer to audiences, how to work upon public visibility, what kind of technologies can enable such connection between archives and audiences, thus what kind of new forms can archive take in order to create engaging experiences for public.
The case is that as today cultural heritage information is not stable, but in continuous change because of interaction among institutions and with the public, archives as a field needs to be redefined by taking in consideration both current changes in technology, and the needs and expectations of contemporary users. Moreover, digitisation is seen as a must-have activity for many institutions, but not all the digitised archival materials online are understandable and usable for general public because of materialistic approach brought into the communication of archival materials. Archival materials contain traces of historical and cultural knowledge, and these can be transferred into information and amplified by making connections among materials for the general public. These presuppositions are crucial for starting to talk about an ‘experience offer’ for archives and are defined in this research as the shift from an ‘open’ level (open to public use) to a living level (in continuous growth and circulation).
The research has brought an interdisciplinary approach to the research domain and uses case study as the main research strategy in order to respond to the complexity of the research focus. The case studies address ‘Structural mechanisms’, ‘Institutional relationships’ and ‘Exhibitionary forms’ as current dynamics to be taken in consideration in archive-related projects.
The thesis contributes a novel understanding of the ‘experiences’ of archives and provides conceptual information and practical insights in order to make a change in the approach of heritage institutions’ archive-related projects.
Reimaginingarchives.org is a website dedicated to communicate the main outcome emerged from my PhD research activity. As an exploratory meta-design tool, it aims to support the design critique and design strategy/envisioning activities of heritage institutions’ projects in relation to archives. It is designed by bringing the three dynamics — Structural mechanisms, Institutional relationships and Exhibitionary forms and practical insights together and acts as a mean to support the design critique and design strategy activities of institutions through workshops and sprints. It aims also to raise awareness on the importance on enabling audience-centric and engaging experiences for archives and brings into practice how a meta-design tool may assist in such activities and approaches.