As of this past July 1st, the Digital Programs team (we’re often colloquially referred to as the D-Team) is now officially known as Digital Strategies. This seemingly insignificant change of one word in our name reflects tectonic shifts, both to our team’s role as well as a larger organizational approach to technology and technical expertise.
For about the past ten years, the D-Team has been in the process of transitioning from a standalone digital collections unit into a team which leads the ethical application of technology across all aspects of the RAC’s work. The motivation for this change is laid out pretty effectively by Sibyl Schaefer (former Assistant Director of the D-Team) in an interview in 2014: making digital collections the province of only one team is not only unscalable, it also fails to take full advantage of existing staff expertise. This process has been slow, and change has often been imperceptible until (as archivists are wont to do) we expanded our time horizon to take in the long view. But there is no question in any of our minds that we have, for some time, no longer been a standalone “program” but rather an integrated and integral part of the RAC’s operations.
Of course, that change in our team’s role has been impacted by organizational changes at the RAC. While there are way too many of these to list, the bottom line is that, as an organization, our view of technology has shifted from it being a wilderness to barricade ourselves off from to a site of human and archival labor. This means that it’s no longer the D-Team’s job to do all the “digital” stuff - digitization, disk imaging, digital preservation, systems development - but instead that work is shared by and with all our colleagues across the RAC. This collaborative model takes advantage of everyone’s expertise and areas of concentration, whether that’s in-depth knowledge of our archival description or what box sizes we keep in stock for processing collections. And, like migrating geese flying in formation, it allows us to step up to leadership roles when we can and draft off the leadership of others when we must.
All of which is simply to say, we don’t have a digital program at the Rockefeller Archive Center anymore. We have an archives program which is situated in a technological context. The role of the Digital Strategies team is to serve as a hub for the RAC’s ongoing engagement with technology and a bridge between the needs of our users, the expertise of our colleagues, and trends in technology.