My Archive of the Week this week is the Harry Ransom Centre at the University of Texas in Austin. According to its' website, the Centre "advances the study of the arts and humanities by acquiring, preserving, and making accessible original cultural materials". In previous generations one could be rather disapproving about collections of original documents and historical papers being sold to the highest bidder and then been transported off to some air-conditioned vault on the far side of the world. With the advent of the Digital Age the results of such an international trade in source documents need not be so irksome : if the acquiring institution makes digital copies available they can positively contribute towards the wider availability of source material to all students, researchers and browsers, wherever they may be.
The Harry Ransome Centre has a truely wonderful collection of documents and artifacts covering subjects such as literature, history, philosophy, religion and art and it seems to be making a reasonable stab at making them available through a series of digital exhibitions. Currently such exhibitions are limited to certain topics and the available material represents only a small selection of what the Centre obviously has available. But it is a start and it should be encouraged and therefore it received my Archive of the Week Award.
The collection I looked at in some detail was the collection of papers and photographs of the Rev. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (better known by his pen name, Lewis Carroll). There is some fascinating material about a man who appears to have had more levels of complexity than an onion skin. Author of "Alice in Wonderland", pioneer of photography, prodigious letter-writer, lecturer in mathematics and logic at Oxford University : Dodgson managed to fit a lot into his lifetime. Many of these elements are represented in the digital exhibition and you get the distinct impression that Dodgson would have approved of the digital dissemination of his papers. Indeed, one suspects, that Dodgson would have been an enthusiastic blogger.