Digital Archive (30% of final grade)

You are responsible for locating and contributing documents to the shared New Jersey History digital archive. This archive should be of interest to both scholars and the general public. Check here for some ideas on choosing your topic.


A physical archive is at least partly defined by the fact that it contains unique items, items considered “primary sources” by researchers: letters, manuscripts and other private papers, organizational records, photographs, and an increasing amount of multimedia. A digital archive also consists of such primary sources, but in a digital archive, items may not necessarily be unique. A digital archive can contain both born-digital items (e-mails, web pages, digital audio and video recordings) and digitized representations of a physical object. A digital archive, then, is defined primarily by 1) the implicit promise that its items will be preserved for the long term, and 2) the existence of professional archival metadata.

New Jersey for the purposes of the class are the borders of the current state. You may include a few items that are not geographically tied to New Jersey in your archive, as long as there is some connection. Example: A pageant celebrating the events of the 1913 Paterson Silk Strike was held in Madison Square Garden in New York City. Coverage of that event would be allowed because of its relationship to New Jersey events.

Nature of items:


The items in your archive should be items that would be called primary sources in the context of historical research:

  • manuscripts
  • e-mails
  • historical newspaper articles
  • images
  • video
  • music
  • web sites

The items in your archive should not be:

  • scholarly writing
  • something you have written on the topic.

Number of items:

Include at least 20 items in your archive, more if you can find them. Figuring out what constitutes an item can be difficult. Is a three-page manuscript one item or three? Are five photographs of the same building taken at different angles five items or one? Check with me if you are uncertain or if you are interested in presenting a smaller number of items in an extremely complex manner.


Metadata helps researchers find an item, and get essential facts about its provenance and context. Omeka uses the Dublin Core metadata standard; a collection of 15 pieces of information about an item. Fields are optional, and may be used more than once (several Subjects, for instance), but please make sure to include CREATOR (even if it is Unknown), COLLECTION (where the original resides, even if it is in your own personal digital photo collection), COLLECTOR (you), and as rich a list of subject and coverage fields and description as you can provide. If you can pin a street address to the document, be sure to do so. See the guidelines for items, collections, and tagging for specifics.


Part of the assignment is to demonstrate that you have permission to include your items in the digital archive. Permission might come from the archive where you located the manuscript, the artist who created a graphic, the participants in an oral history interview, or it might be held by you, if you photographed a historic site, for example. Consult the readings and class slides from Week 3 to refresh your understanding of copyright.

You must summarize the permission status of each object that you submit to the NJDH digital archive in a permissions log. To enter information, use the form. You can also use the spreadsheet version if you need to edit or update an entry. IF YOU HAVE NOT RECEIVED PERMISSION OR HAVE BEEN DENIED PERMISSION, you must set the item to "private" in the Omeka Archive and IT WILL NOT COUNT TOWARDS YOUR 20 ITEMS.


Week 4 (Feb. 6) Post your general topic and a short research plan on your student wiki page. (Where are you going to look for the items, what resources can you use, secondary sources?) You can alter this as you go on, but it may put you behind.
Week 7 (Feb. 27) Post one item to the Omeka site by 3/2/14
Week 10 (Mar. 20) Post at least 20 items to the digital archive with metadata.
Week 14 (Apr. 17) Review and correct your metadata based on feedback
Week 16 (May 1) All items made "public"' permissions secured and recorded in the spreadsheet

Grading Criteria


Is this a new, interesting, and valuable collection of items? Is it useful and interesting both to historians and to the general public? Have you included at least 20 items? Have you included more than 20? Are they all items worthy of being collected and archived?


Have you secured permissions for all your public items? Have you documented your search for copyright holders, or made reasonable decisions about what is a good faith effort or fair use?


Are the items digitized well? Are they legible, complete, straight, and appealing to look at? Are they varied in content or appearance? Are the descriptions of the items complete and engaging?


Have you completed metadata on all items? Is it accurate, and helpful? Does the metadata follow the standards laid out for the archive? Does the metadata create interesting and useful links between the items in the archive? Does each item have a collection, creator, and collector associated with it? Have you made suggested corrections to your metadata?


Is everything spelled correctly? Is it written well? Do all links work? Do all the images load?
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