Known by the Company it Keeps: Proximity-Based Indexing for Physical Content in Archival Repositories

Despite the plethora of born-digital content, vast troves of important content remain accessible only on physical media such as paper or microfilm. The traditional approach to indexing undigitized content is using manually created metadata that describes it at some level of aggregation (e.g., folder, box, or collection). Searchers led in this way to some subset of the content often must then manually examine substantial quantities of physical media to find what they are looking for. This paper proposes a complementary approach, in which selective digitization of a small portion of the content is used as a basis for proximity-based indexing as a way of bringing the user closer to the specific content for which they are looking. Experiments with 35 boxes of partially digitized US State Department records indicate that box-level indexes built in this way can provide a useful basis for search.

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