Small-Scale Digital Archiving Sans Institutional Support (relatedly, Kickstarter)

If you have a discrete set of sources that you think could make an interesting digital archive, but you’re not going to be executing the project with the financial support and institutional imprimatur of a library, archive, or university, how do you get started? How do you get copyright? How do you fund your labor (or maybe just some of it)? How do you find collaborators, and maybe fund their labor as well? How do you choose the kind of CMS that’s right for the project? How do you help your project gain visibility after it goes live? How do you plan for long-term sustainability moving forward?

As a soon-to-be-finished PhD in a humanities field, with several ideas for small-scale archiving projects but no sure source of continuing institutional support, I’m wondering if there are enough people with the same needs to constitute a session.

The session could be of interest to people who find themselves in the same position as myself, people who’ve independently created specialized archives of this kind, people who’ve worked with Kickstarter (successfully or un-!), or people who just know a lot about digital archiving, copyright, or grant-writing.

Issues of copyright are, of course, crucial here (for example, I’d love to do a full-text, searchable archive of Sassy magazine—but without the prestige & cash of an institution backing me up, I’m not sure I could secure that copyright), but I’m also interested in questions of labor and compensation. Is there any way to work on this kind of a project while, if not getting paid a ton, at least receiving some compensation for the time spent scanning and formatting?

I’m very interested in talking about using Kickstarter as a source of funding for this kind of a project. Trevor Owens wrote a blog post last year pointing out that many DH projects have found funding this way, and linking to some examples. What kinds of projects end up getting funded? How have they framed their projects to appeal to the public? What kinds of outcomes do they promise? What do their budgets include? What swag do they offer their funders?

If people know about ways of getting small-scale non-Kickstarter grant funding for this kind of a project, that’d also be great to add to the discussion.

As a product of this session, I suggest we could produce a GoogleDoc outlining best practices for getting small digital humanities projects funded on Kickstarter.

2 thoughts on “Small-Scale Digital Archiving Sans Institutional Support (relatedly, Kickstarter)

  1. Hey! I’m not there, but this is something I’d be very interested in discussing, post-Camp. I went to library school because I was interested in creating digital archives of subcultural materials (zines, 7”s, ephemera) and came up against a lot of the issues you mentioned here through my coursework. I’d love to dig back into this as a potential crowd-funded project.

  2. It definitely seems like these kinds of texts (pop culture ephemera and publications produced by specific communities) would do best with the crowd-funding. Jess Nevins’ digital Encyclopedia of Golden-Age Science Fiction, for example, got funded on Kickstarter recently, and I bet this was easier to accomplish because of the fan base he could access for support. If this session doesn’t happen, I’d love to talk more about this via Twitter post-THATCamp!

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