Future of archives? “Passionate amateurs” doing “detailed curating”?

Today, via the miracle of the Intertubes, I am getting to observe what is happening at a meeting about “Smithsonian 2.0.” Here is the official meeting site, here’s what I believe is the project’s authorized blog, but most importantly, you can read what attendees are writing about the meeting on Twitter (#SI20).

Just a few minute ago, Dan Cohen, was describing the talk being given by Chris Anderson (of “Long Tail” fame), and, describing a thought of Anderson’s tweeted this:

SI could even do live crowdsourcing. Passionate amateurs would prob travel to look at archives and do detailed curating

I re-tweeted this, since I’ve got some archivists “following” me now, saying that I was skeptical and asking for others’ thoughts. Well, what do you think, blog readers? This has been talked about before, but as I said, I’m skeptical. For records that have genealogical value, you might be able to find people to do this, but I think that might be the extent of it. Am I too pessimistic?

Or, let’s break that question up. First, do you think there is a large enough pool of “passionate” people (forget the amateur part) who would be willing to travel to your archives and do detailed cataloging and then share that with the world? (Not even considering how you would be integrating that “curating” into your existing structure for description.) Second, what if the materials were online, and no travel were necessary? There are some precedents for this–users adding value to digitize materials–with Flickr and Ancestry.com. How realistic do think expectations like this are–particularly in regards to people actually coming in to the archives to do this kind of work?

P.S. This is a nice example of people using 2.0 tools like blogs and Twitter to expand the discussion taking place a meeting with limited attendance to a much wider audience. Again, think about the usefulness of such tools for Austin this summer.

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