As a virtual archive, the JWA does not physically hold archival materials. Rather, according to their website, they “provide access to a wide variety of resources, including many primary sources, which tell the stories of Jewish women in North America.” Much of the material made available by the JWA is either staff-generated, or derives from digitization projects undertaken by the organization. The JWA aims to facilitate research at more traditional archives (the website features a searchable database that identifies material on Jewish women held by American repositories), and staff curate online exhibitions on various topics related to the lives of Jewish women, contribute to the “Jewesses with Attitude” blog, and provide resources for teachers (including running a professional development program for teachers and creating downloadable lesson plans). The JWA staff also made Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia available (and searchable!) online, digitized a four-year run of The American Jewess, and created an online walking tour of the Triangle Factory fire.
According to an email exchange with Ari Davidow, the JWA’s Director of Online Strategy, “Things get digitized when there is funding to do so! Almost everything we do is project driven, so even if I desperately want to update something or to digitize new items, tough luck for me.I can either put together a project and find a way to get it funded, or live without. I have some small discretion, but not much. On the other hand, we’re not a traditional archive. We don’t generally have assets that need digitization. A more usual process for us it to find assets in other archives that we wish permission to use for a new project (a new curriculum, for instance) and negotiating appropriate rights.” Since the JWA doesn’t have traditional archival holding, Davidow points out that their digitization projects are always collaborative efforts that involve ensuring the JWA’s ability to display that content legally – projects mentioned above, such as Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia and The American Jewess, are excellent examples of this type of content.
But in addition to gathering together and creating all of these excellent resources for researching Jewish women, the JWA also crowdsources material for many of its features. My next post will concentrate on the how crowdsourcing works at the JWA, by focusing on specific projects coordinated by the archive.