Simultaneous Multiple Provenance, Co-creation, and Digital Repatriation: A Conceptual Investigation Using Archived Records Shared by the United Kingdom with the Gulf States
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Simultaneous Multiple Provenance, Co-creation, and Digital Repatriation: A Conceptual Investigation Using Archived Records Shared by the United Kingdom with the Gulf States

  • Author(s): Alalawi, Sakena A. S. H. A. Q.
  • Advisor(s): Gilliland-Swetland, Anne J.
  • et al.
Abstract

This dissertation examines the circumstances and descriptions of the collections of historical and cultural materials created and/or collected during the British presence in the Gulf region from the 16th to the 20th century. It presents the unique situation of physical Gulf-based records held by the British Library (BL) and The National Archives of the United Kingdom (TNA), and today shared in the form of digitized copies through partnerships with Qatar National Library (QNL) and the National Archives of the United Arab Emirates (NA UAE), respectively. A brief review of the history of the British presence in the Gulf indicates amicable relationships between the two regions and thus that categorization of the status of these records as either displaced or colonial is not the best fit for their nature and current situation. This research sought, therefore, to identify the understandings underlying this digital sharing, determine a more accurate way to conceive the status of these records of the day-to-day transactions of the British in the Gulf region, and reconsider how that status, and specifically provenance, might be more fully represented in the descriptions of the records created by the institutions that are engaged in this digital sharing. For this reason, the term “transactional archives” is used, which most appropriately describes the intent behind the creation of these records.An interpretivist inductive approach was used in multiple comparative case studies that sought to investigate the suitability or not of three archival approaches that have been proposed in recent years to expand and challenge classic understandings of provenance: digital repatriation, simultaneous multiple provenance, and co-creatorship. Holdings that have been digitally shared were identified at the BL and TNA and a sample of over 900 descriptions (a.k.a. finding aids) for these collections (as disseminated by each of the four institutions) was analyzed. Data collection comprised close readings of the finding aids and interviews with staff from the institutions involved to supplement and inform the findings of those close readings. Data analysis included within-case analysis and examination of cross-case patterns. The dissertation argues that the current definition of digital repatriation fails to completely describe the nature of these partnerships and that instead “digital sharing” should be incorporated as an additional facet of digital repatriation. This would help to ensure that appropriate rights and protections are taken into account when digital sharing occurs across parties with different identities and perspectives but certain shared histories. With regard to the status and description of the holdings being shared, the research had hypothesized that the traditional practice of the principle of provenance inadequately represents the origins, status, and symbolic value of these shared materials to the different nations involved and so it examined the applicability and extensibility of the concepts of simultaneous multiple provenance and co-creatorship within the context of the shared materials about the Gulf. The research findings show that one institution consistently adheres to the traditional practice of provenance and views other provenancial theories as intellectual interpretations. The remaining institutions inconsistently apply provenance according to varying interpretations, ranging from singular provenance to the possibility of co-creatorship. The dissertation offers several recommendations, including accepting and practicing an expanded conception of provenance to ensure that the Gulf’s narratives and perspectives that are absent from the current descriptions are represented.

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