Using digital archives in historical research: What are the ethical concerns for a ‘forgotten’ individual?

This source preferred by Holly Crossen-White

Authors: Crossen-White, H.

Journal: Research Ethics

Volume: Vol. 11

Issue: 2

Pages: 108-119

On-line digital archives have allowed researchers to explore the past as never before. Arguably without the search technology offered by on-line digital archives the lives of many individuals would have remained in obscurity. Furthermore, the level of detail that can be quickly gleaned about individuals from the past, particularly when multiple digital archives are accessed, raises ethical questions. For example, when reporting findings researchers could be disclosing personal information that is unknown to descendants and if it relates to a sensitive topic, then there is the potential for the researcher to cause distress. However, the rapid growth in digital archives has meant there has been little consideration of what ethical concerns digital archives might generate. This article reflects upon research using one digital archive and the importance of the researcher’s relationship with the material they retrieve when searching this type of source.

This data was imported from Scopus:

Authors: Crossen-White, H.L.

Journal: Research Ethics

Volume: 11

Issue: 2

Pages: 108-119

eISSN: 2047-6094

ISSN: 1747-0161

DOI: 10.1177/1747016115581724

© 2014 National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA). Online digital archives have allowed researchers to explore the past as never before. Arguably without the search technology offered by online digital archives the lives of many individuals would have remained in obscurity. Furthermore, the level of detail that can be quickly gleaned about individuals from the past, particularly when multiple digital archives are accessed, raises ethical questions. For example, when reporting findings researchers could be disclosing personal information that is unknown to descendants, and if it relates to a sensitive topic then there is the potential for the researcher to cause distress. However, the rapid growth in digital archives has meant there has been little consideration of what ethical concerns digital archives might generate. This article reflects upon research using one digital archive and the importance of the researcher’s relationship with the material they retrieve when searching this type of source.

The data on this page was last updated at 05:09 on February 20, 2020.