Searchable Civil Rights Movement voice recordings now available via Vanderbilt University

Interviews recorded by Robert Penn Warren as he traveled the U.S. to speak with civil rights leaders in 1964 were made available in digital format this week (click the link to make the jump). The Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities at Vanderbilt University now houses the recordings. The archive at the RPWC also includes interview transcripts and photos.

For me, the crucial point in this piece of news comes courtesy of Mona Frederick, executive director of the RPWC: “This is a wonderful example of how, in the age of digital humanities, split collections can be made whole and anyone with access to the Internet can use the material.” 

A question that comes to mind after reading about the Penn Warren Center digitization is this: Is digitization the best way to present fragile/valuable material to the public? And another question: How do we decide what to digitize (in terms of “worth”)? True, these questions have been posed to those with archival/special collections/curatorship interest before, but what do you think?

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