What are the roles of an archivist in an archival informatics project?
The broad meaning of “informatics” implies the organizational methods retrievable by electronics and mathematics, a branch of computer science, but more generally it is the part of the archivist’s job dealing with retrieval methods, and that task begins with the taxonomizing of the archived material. In other works, besides the tasks of storing, preserving, and maintaining the integrity of the archived collection, the archivist is responsible for categorizing, cross-referencing, and rating the value and importance of each piece of information under his or her care. By taxonomizing the material—putting it in categories and subcategories, and making the categories retrievable by the researcher—the archivist gives the user a system of retrieval (the obvious methods in, for example, a library of books include titles by alphabet, authors by alphabet, genres, etc.—the Dewey Decimal System or the Library of Congress System are examples; the card catalogs of old have all been replaced by infoematics-designed computer retrieval systems.) In these modern times, electronic retrieval systems speed up the location-and-retrieval times, and the specialist in archival informatics will be responsible for referencing and cross-referencing all archived material by several criteria, so that the searcher can gather archived material by several criteria; but these categories must be creatively thought out. A recent example can be found in the fairly new discipline of Performing Art archives, which is preparadigmatic—that is, no model has yet been accepted for storing the history of performance art in archives; their first step must be forming a taxonomy that is acceptable to all communities—dance, theatre, performance art, circus, etc. Then the informatics specialist will devise a method for retrieving the archived material by several criteria—length of performance, size, make-up, involvement of audience (participatory or only spectatorial), medium of preservation (video, labanotation, script, notes, postscriptive text, etc.).