Manuscripts on computers

Collaboration on digital personal archives

”The Ghost Carriage” Manuscript of short story in Selma Lagerlöf´s Archive

A personal archive contains of material that documents the life and works of a person. A major part of the personal archives at the Swedish National Library comes from authors. The archives of writers August Strindberg and Selma Lagerlöf are two examples. An archive of an author typically consists of diaries, letters, manuscripts and photographs.

Same, but different

As most writers nowadays use computers for writing and storage, this presents new challenges for archival institutions when they receive and handle personal archives.

At the library the Unit for Manuscripts, Maps and Pictures handle the personal archives. Librarian and archivist Anne Scherman works among other things with digital personal archives.

Portrait of Anne Scherman
Anne Scherman

- We receive the same type of material. What is new are the formats and the media. The technical issues that arise are also a novelty to us. Is it still possible to open a file that was created by a word processing program from the nineties? Are the floppy disks readable? Coming from the world of archives on paper, those are new questions.

Can we handle it?

If you agree to receive a donation from a person you must make sure that you can store and share the material with researchers and other interested parties. It is therefore essential that we assure that the material playable before accepting a donation.

New possibilities

Even if there are technical problems Anne wants to stress the possibilities. A digital archive can have more depth than a conventional archive. You could, for example, find different versions of a manuscript. This could be of great interest to researchers. It is also easier to make lossless copies.

Since 2011 the National Library of Sweden is part of a Nordic collaboration on digital personal archives. This year the library hosted a conference on the subject. Keynote speaker was Susan Thomas of the Bodleian Electronic Archives and Manuscripts, Oxford, England

Contact person: Håkan Färje, e-mail: firstname.lastname@kb.se

Related information

Project blog
(In Swedish, but many links to English sites)

Bodleian Library Oxford

Personal archives at the library

National Library