I was looking this week at UCL's George Orwell archive (the link button isn't working on this computer, so here is the URL in full: http://digitool-b.lib.ucl.ac.uk:8881/R/DGYPJAY81EL3LKJRY7K2IS2URL5N44MQ1YYYVSH3QPYPXNTYFS-03929?local_base=ORWELL), and thought it posed some interesting problems in terms of digitizing print archives. As Derrida says in relation to digital archivization,
Was it not at this very instant that ... I pushed a certain key to "save" a text undamaged, in a hard and lasting way, to protect marks from being erased, so as to ensure in this way salvation and indemnity, to stock, to accumulate, and, in what is at once the same thing and something else, to make the sentence available in this way for printing and reprinting, for reproduction? Does it change anything that Freud did not know about the computer? And where should the moment of suppression or of repression be situated in these new models of recording and impression, or printing? (25-6)
What I'm curious about here is a few things. First, does it change anything that Orwell did not know about the computer? What I mean is, particularly with the early manuscripts and his assorted notebooks, Orwell presumably had established an archive of his own by storing these documents. For presenting them online in this form, UCL has had to arrange the archive under headings easily accessible to the viewer, such as "political diaries," "personal diaries," "literary notebooks," etc. Furthermore, the texts seem to have gone under further arrangement by an archon in the interim, as this page shows: http://digitool-b.lib.ucl.ac.uk:8881/view/action/nmets.do?DOCCHOICE=100755.xml&dvs=1331566918033~763&locale=en_US&search_terms=Political%20diaries&adjacency=%20&VIEWER_URL=/view/action/nmets.do?&DELIVERY_RULE_ID=5&usePid1=true&usePid2=true The previous archon here has scrawled "From the Notebooks of George Orwell," as well as scribbled out Orwell's dates in pencil and added their own. In the digital archivization, as with Derrida's sentence, the "save" button has been hit now, and the work remains as it is. So, not only has Orwell's archive been re-archived at least twice, but it has now been preserved in electronic form as a sort of definitive version.
The shift in form from a print archive to a digital archive, I feel, raises these questions: what does this appropriation of the archive do to the works it presents (as in, are we having new meanings established by the arrangements of these works in a new archive)? And, what sense of authenticity does the digitized archive hold, bearing in mind that these items have been removed from their context and subsequently had notes scrawled on them by others?