Digital Archiving Resources

Between Archive and Participation: Public Memory in a Digital Age


Between Archive and Participation: Public Memory in a Digital Age


Collective memory


Haskins examines the effects of the Internet on the memory work of archives and the informal, vernacular style of the broad public. Examples of the vernacular style of memory work include the spontaneous display of mementos at memorials or sites of mourning, and uploading personal stories and photographs to the Internet via social media. Traditionally, archival memory stores and orders material traces of the past without the presence or engagement by the public. However, the Internet continually archives the transmission of media and exponentially, the private opinions, ephemera, and idiosyncratic methods of organization of its contributors. The diversity of public opinion and the sharing of content afford both potentially beneficial and destructive consequences. Participation in memory work by a greater cross-section of society that is unaffected by more conservative, institutional restraints supports the values and beliefs of a democratic society. Conversely, that same diversity fosters insularity, given the widely fragmented content and the commercial profit gained by nurturing individualistic self-expression. Haskins proposes, through her examination of the 9-11 digital archive a balanced approach to centering memory work by cultural heritage institutions with guidelines for public participation and fostering a comprehensive view of history.


Haskins, Katerina


Rhetoric Society Quarterly




Polk, Victoria


The Rhetoric Society of America


Journal Article

Bibliographic Citation

Haskins, Katerina. "Between Archive and Participation: Public Memory in a Digital Age." Rhetoric Society Quarterly v. 37, n.4. (2007): 401-422.

Instructional Method

Haskins illuminates one of the most critical challenges facing builders of digital archives: balancing the time-tested standards and methods for storing and providing access to a comprehensive representation of cultural knowledge against the demands for digitization and greater public participation. In this article, she alerts the reader to the potential loss of historical consciousness and a “self-congratulatory amnesia” resulting from the Internet style of unbridled public expression. Archives should facilitate broad perspectives and a sense of the larger body politic. As digital archivists, we provide the contextual information, tools, and interface design that may either enhance or detract from the idea of cultural memory.




Haskins, Katerina, “Between Archive and Participation: Public Memory in a Digital Age,” Digital Archiving Resources, accessed May 22, 2018,