After examining many facets of the Jewish Women’s Archive, we have come to recognize a few themes and principles that seem to guide the way that the JWA operates.
Primarily, the JWA is invested in collaboration–with other institutions and with American Jews and Jewish communities. One example of this is that the JWA spearheads the Small Archives Community on Durspace. This community is designed to be a place where small repositories can collaborate, share knowledge and resources and work together to develop solutions to long-term digital preservation problems. The JWA itself is a small archive and will benefit from working with similar institutions, which often lack the ability to develop or implement preservation solutions on their own. The JWA’s technology team seems to be particularly skilled and innovative and will be a strong resource for this community of small repositories.
The JWA is also invested in innovation. Its use of Duraspace and its involvement in the Small Archives Community on Duraspace show that commitment. Unlike some other digital repositories, the JWA has no physical counterpart–the physical originals of much of the archival and historical material on the JWA’s website belong to other individuals or repositories. This frees the JWA to think creatively about how to present, acquire and support the use of its materials without having to worry about maintaining a physical archive or coordinating a mass digitization project of physical holdings. Some of the material the JWA possesses is born-digital–video interviews, crowdsourced information and the planned people’s compendium to the online Encyclopedia, for instance. The existence of this material encourages the JWA to innovate in its preservation and presentation.
The JWA also encourages participation in its project by individuals and communities who have an interest in documenting, preserving and educating others about Jewish women’s history. Through outreach and crowdsourcing, the JWA encourages users to become invested in the archive–to contribute content, add comments or corrections and to form a community. The JWA also provides participatory action resources such as curricula and oral history guides so that users can research–and possibly contribute–their own history.
While these user interactions and contributions without a doubt make the JWA a richer, more complete resource, the JWA’s devotion to encouraging them also shows its commitment to advocating for the Jewish community and its history. The JWA notes that much of the history of Jewish women in America is unknown or uncelebrated:
The past is told not just in books and on websites. It is all around us, but we rarely see it, especially the history of women. You can visit a handful of places that are landmarks in American Jewish women’s history…but like other under-represented groups, Jewish women have left few lasting marks on the American landscape.
Encouraging user collaboration, providing resources for education and research and maintaining a rich, easily-navigable website all contribute to the JWA’s mission “to uncover, chronicle, and transmit to a broad public the rich history of American Jewish women”–and to create an innovative community archive for a physically disparate community.