Scanner darkly: unpopularization in the Burney Newspaper Collection
Lanning, K. (2020). Scanner darkly: Unpopularization in the burney newspaper collection. Archives and Records, 41(3), 215-235. doi:10.1080/23257962.2020.1810004
This essay explores the paradox of inaccessibility in popular archives. Often understood as democratizing, even digital databases of popular literature ironically contain a series of barriers: an extraordinary paywall and frequent image-quality issues that render some texts illegible. Popularity relies on access. What happens to popular literature when its access is constricted? As we recognize the movement of archives towards collections of popular cultures, we must likewise understand the ways in which access to these cultures is still denied in ways antithetical to their original forms and uses. Using The 17th and 18th Centuries Burney Newspaper Database as a case study, this paper investigates how digitized archives unpopularize historically popular texts and what access might look like in a true archive of popularity.