AIDS History Research: New ArchiveGrid Available
June 29, 2006
Summary: A newly available online service allows anyone to locate private historical collections at more than 3,000 institutions, mostly in the U.S. A search for "ACT UP" found 61 collections of papers, videos, and other materials.
People researching the history of AIDS (or AIDS activism, particular organizations like ACT UP, or individual public figures) may get invaluable help from private collections of papers that have been donated to university libraries and other institutions. The problem has been finding out what collections exist and where they are located. Now a new service for scholars called ArchiveGrid is getting rave reviews; it is free through June 2006 at least. Persons interested in knowing where certain collections are may want to run searches before June 30, and save the results.
For example, go to www.archivegrid.org and use the search box near the upper left of the screen to search for "ACT UP" (with the quotation marks). In June 2006, 61 collections were found. ArchiveGrid has a short description of each, contact information for the appropriate department at the library, and sometimes a link to a library page with more information about the collection. Each library has its own rules for access (including restrictions from the original donors, who may have confidentiality concerns).
A search on "HIV" (quotation marks not needed) found a total of 201 collections and other items. Probably all of them are relevant to AIDS. Searching for "Philadelphia HIV" without the quotation marks found 32 that mention both. ("Philadelphia" alone found over 73,000 that mention the city.)
The great majority of collections indexed are in the United States at this time, but a few are in Australia or UK. Over 3,000 libraries and other organizations have contributed information to ArchiveGrid (the list is published on the site).
After June 30 access might be more difficult. As of June 21 when we checked, the ordering process was for institutions, included a $200 start-up fee, and required limiting access to "permitted users"; this will not work well because it is hard for insiders and usually impossible for outsiders to get an institution to spend money, which may need to be budgeted months in advance. ArchiveGrid is seeking funding to keep free access available, and does plan to allow individual use in any case (individuals often use the system for genealogy research). But at this time it is not clear what will happen.
Comment: Better Ways to Charge for Online AccessThis writer designed software to let organizations like ArchiveGrid (or medical or scientific journals) charge for access more gracefully and less harmfully than today. Institutional or individual donors anywhere in the world will be able buy prepaid free access at bulk discounts, and share it as widely or as narrowly as they wish through social networks that can be worldwide or local. Most end users will pay nothing unless they want to -- while donors could send targeted messages, and will have other incentives as well. In case no one donates, then end users will have to pay, as in standard ecommerce today -- an inefficient system that will motivate groups to organize one payment collectively for shared access, instead of many small individual payments, which work less well for everyone.
In our system, the prepaid free access is managed by smart URLs (Web links) that connect to online accounts that are maintained on a server. The URLs can easily be emailed or otherwise distributed through social or professional networks.
We developed this system to help musicians, writers, and other artists make a living, but organizations that now sell almost any digital content could raise funds more efficiently by making a few large sales followed by free access, instead of many small sales. We have not written the software, but have published the design and made it available rights-free to anyone who wants to use it. For more information see www.smart-accounts.org.
Copyright 2006 by John S. James. See "Permission to Copy" at: www.aidsnews.org/canhelp/.
This article was provided by AIDS Treatment News. It is a part of the publication AIDS Treatment News.