Presented at the ICA Congress, Brisbane 2012

This paper considers the challenges and opportunities of access to digital archival collections. After the era of digitisation, collecting institutions hold vast digital treasure-troves. But the techniques we use to access these collections have been fundamentally unchanged for decades. Search remains the dominant access tool. This paper makes the case for the limitations of search, and proposes instead the concept of “generous interfaces” for digital collections. Generous interfaces offer rich, browsable views; provide evocative samples of primary content; and support an understanding of context and relationships. Based on experimental work to date, the paper outlines some design principles and patterns for generous archival interfaces, as well as considering challenges to their implementation.


NB These ideas are expanded and updated in the more recent DHQ paper, Generous Interfaces for Cultural Collections.