Born-digital collections like Turner Cassity's present an opportunity to experiment with digital methods. The electronic form of born-digital materials allows for timely, and much less labor-intensive digital analysis and presentation, compared to their paper counterparts.
Born-digital materials include metadata that can easily be analyzed and visualized with digital tools. For instance, each file from Cassity's computer has metadata information attached to it: format of file, size of file, date created, date last modified. While paper materials sometimes record this information, it is not in a uniform way, and the information is not already in an electronic format, ready for analysis with digital tools.
For instance, the timeline below arranges Cassity's files according to their dates of their creation. Navigate to the document by clicking on title of the file.
Generally, individual researchers don't have access to manipulate the files of a born-digital archival collections, because of security, and, to an extent, privacy concerns. In order to undertake a method like text analysis, for example, you need to have copies of the files and access to apply tools to those texts. In the Rose Library reading room, born-digital materials are generally presented as PDFs, a stable file format that researchers basically interact with in the same way they would paper. These files are provided on a computer with very limited capabilities, in order to protect the files from being copied or corrupted.
As archivists and researchers continue to work with born-digital materials, more possibilities for reading and analyzing born-digital materials are sure to develop. The literature on born-digital archives tend to focus on questions of preservation, transfer of materials, and security. (See, for example, this important 2013 CLIR report on born-digital materials.) This focus is understandable, as the field is young, and digital preservation of personal and organizational papers poses new and fundamental challenges for libraries and archives. However, there remains a lot of possibility for innovation around access and analysis of these kinds of materials. This exhibit begins to explore, with text analysis and mapping, a few possibilities for digital analysis of born-digital materials.