How reliable are archives and databases of born-digital works of electronic literature when their digitally driven platforms are endangered by digital obsolescence and technological challenges, hacks, and by a lack of long-term maintenance after a funding period’s end?
Some of the databases within the field of electronic literature are no longer accessible due to one of the reasons mentioned above: the Cyberfiction Database (directed by Beat Suter) that featured German works that were published between 1996-2003 is down after a move from one server to another; ELINOR: Electronic Literature in the Nordic Region (directed by Jill Walker Rettberg, 2004-06) was terminated after the project’s funding ended, and the ELO’s wiki-based archive-it database that was set up in 2007 for allocating works for archiving was hacked. The risks are also there for the (still accessible) Drupal-based Electronic Literature Knowledge Base, no longer funded as part of the ELMCIP project (Electronic Literature as a Model of Creativity and Innovation in Practice, 2010-2013).
On January 4th 2015, Matthew Kirschenbaum tweets “Seems The Iowa Review Web has gone away“ (@mkirschenbaum). After a round of speculations and discontentment (the archive was not valued to be preserved (Grigar)), there is certainty that the archive of the e-lit journal that was founded at the turn of the millennium will be resurrected by moving it to a new server (see https://twitter.com/mkirschenbaum/status/551852928265646081). In the meantime, the archive remains inaccessible for an undefined period of time.
Thus, on the list of seemingly archived, but inaccessible resources are not only databases and archives; web journals and their archives of published works, too, are at risk of appearing as objects no longer found on the Web. This is even true for resources that were – in collaboration with the Electronic Literature Organization – crawled and captured by using the web-archiving service Archive-It.
Seeking to provide a secure location for archiving and maintaining works of electronic literature, the department of Linguistic, Literary and Aesthetic Studies and the University of Bergen Library are collaborating to provide an “Archive of Nordic Electronic Literature”. In this presentation, UiB’s subject librarian Aud Gjersdal and PhD candidate Patricia Tomaszek (UiB) propose how academic libraries can serve to secure access to works of electronic literature on an institutional basis, and discuss the challenges they are facing in their work in progress.
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