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Bring out Your Dead

Bring out Your Dead: the Institutional Repository

The inelegant term Institutional Repository does not give justice to its true meaning or concept in the digital age.  For the user, “repository” implies a vault-like apparatus where dusty, forgotten objects go to die and “institutional” implies dealing with outdated policies and lengthy, bureaucratic procedures. Ironically, most institutional repositories (IR) created today strive to do the opposite of what the morbid sounding name implies. Most IRs today are user-friendly, interesting, fun, and free of restrictions, especially the Open Access (OA) repositories which encourage research progress, creativity, and knowledge sharing. The “institutional” in IR usually refers to an academic institution and the “repository” usually refers to an online collection or digital archive. These archives usually contain full-text works submitted by an institution’s scholars, professors, students, and researchers which include both published and unpublished works. The collection may include digital articles, papers, dissertations, theses, manuscripts, photographs, preprints, data sets, technical reports, white papers videos, animations, maps, artwork, music, or any digital object that the institution views as part of its intellectual capital.

Institutions will often include special collections and archives within their repository. The University of California Santa Cruz recently launched their Grateful Dead Archive comprised of over 45,000 digitized artifacts. They refer to their collection as a “socially constructed” archive. On the top level page a large “contribute” button appears with “Please share your digital files or tell your Grateful Dead story.”  I decided that my journey into the Dead archive would end there – on the top level page – because, well Deadhead stories and artifacts have a limited appeal for anyone who is not a Deadhead.

In the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM) Repository, I found an OA digital collection of Tropical Disease Motion Pictures. WOW. They are actual mini-motion pictures including films from the War Department. My favorite is Personal Health in the Jungle (1944). This is a must see 15 minute motion picture.  

Looking for an archive of murders committed in the 1700s in Arizona? Look no further:  the University of Arizona repository keeps an archive of Crimes (murder) committed in the 1700s. If a title such as “Report of murder by Frenchmen with Spanish captive,” dated 8-26-1786 interests you, you will have to request the full-text document by email.

The creepiest IR discovery I found is an entire collection of Life and Death masks at Princeton called “The Laurence Hutton Collection of Life and Death Masks.”  Even creepier, I discovered the actual Death Mask of Joseph Smith at the Religious Education Image Archive.

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