Drupal as the Archive

It occurred to me as I lay awake last night that Drupal could actually do much of what came out in our discussions at if:book a year ago. Dan Visel suggested allowing users to add their own images and their own passages (permissions nightmares), or to comment on searches, which is interesting. Drupal wouldn't be able to do a search comment. However, entering each passage as a page or story would enable:

  • More images to be attached to passages.
  • Commenting on the passages and, perhaps with a module, the images.
  • Integration of Proust passages and commentary with services like del.icio.us, twitter, technorati.
  • Use of modules to serendipitously or randomly highlight passages, images, and critical content.

The Drupal search tool would recall all of these. However, the downsides would be:

  • Less immediate access to the search results, since they'd show up as headlines and teasers instead of displaying all info in a neat table as at present.
  • There would be no way to conduct a pagination search for in-depth study of a particular segment of the novel.

Again, as I wrote in the previous post, the archival structure of this site must be "respectful" of the organicity of the novel genre. A Drupal or Drupal-like integrated search engine and Web 2.0 tool would open up possibilities inherent in the digital archive genre, but might go too far in doing violence to the novel genre.

With Web 2.0 (user-produced content), institutional considerations would have to address the topical specificity of the archive, lest it become an encyclopedic, directionless, Proustian wiki. That could mean instituting an archive staff committed to study of the church motif and narrative, which would require a grant or some other financial backing. At the very least it would mean vetting the readers who are allowed to post content (i.e. students, faculty, researches demonstrably focusing on Proust, etc.). But that too is inseparable from what an archive is -- a container of information, whose information is controlled, selected, interpreted, and presented by the archon and both the intra- and inter-institutional politics of its time and place.