8.04.2006

Online Archives, or, Part I in a Series Titled "Why the Web is Great"

The Translator sends me this link, check it!, to a comprehensive online archive of Nazi propaganda materials—posters, speeches, literature, pamphlets, and more.

I go first to the posters and scroll through the super long list of thumbnails, noticing quite a few birds in the iconography. Raptors figure prominently in a number of the posters, all drawing on the whole predatory-eagle-thing. But there's also this one of Duck Man, with the caption translated on the site as "Shame on you, chatterer! The enemy is listening. Silence is your duty" and by The Translator as "Shame on you, blabber-mouth. The enemy is listening. Silence is obligation."



I have no idea why Duck Man has four-fingered hands, but the duck head is apparently supposed to connote a chattery, quacky, thoughtless dabbling duck/worker of some kind, which is a little bit weird for me to see since I haven't seen another representation of ducks as chattery. They do often mumble to themselves, though, so I can see how this works. Florence Merrian, in a 1889 field guide to North American birds, writes a lot about "gossipy" birds—but the avian coffee klatch never includes dabblers.

Anyway, online archives like this make the web, I think, unquestionably great. You can listen to the wax cylinders over at UCSB, explore personal memories in the Memory Archive, view the Getty Images through a number of portals, look at old postcards in the Culture Archive, or even check out images of grill teddies in NYC thanks to one zany archivist or another. I'm still trying to figure out what to do with this archive of road signs, but the WTO History Project archive will be one of the things we examine in my fall seminar on "The Rhetoric of Social Engagement." It's easy to be an archivist online; it's easy to find and use archives online; and it's even easy to turn non-archive-like things into archives online.

Search Flickr for the term "P1000819.JPG" and view an archive of eight-hundred-and-nineteenth images shot on a Panasonic DMC-FX9 camera. Search eBay for instances where leather is spelled lether and boom! pow! bang!—enter a hidden archive of misspellings.

Nothing beats sitting in a rare book room and going through boxes of stuff, I'm not saying that, but I often feel I can scan and see more when using an online archive, and the ability to make the ostensibly non-archival function archivally is particular to zah web!

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