Parallel Archive (PA), developed by Open Society Archives (OSA) at Central European University (www.osaarchivum.org), is at once a personal scholarly workspace, a collaborative research environment, and a digital repository.
Parallel Archive includes essential tools for building and managing personal collections of primary sources. Documents uploaded to PA are automatically transformed from digitized image files into searchable (text behind image) PDF files with the help of OCR (optical character recognition) software. PA guarantees the integrity of all uploaded documents: each character of each file is preserved throughout the archival process and cannot be altered. Each document stored in PA receives a permanent URL that allows researchers to link the full document to their published works. Users are also able to collect documents already in the repository and add descriptions, tags, and private notes. Importantly, users can decide when to make their privately used archival material publicly accessible or can simply delete it from the system.
Parallel Archive's networking functions enable users to build on the contribution of others. Researchers can share documents or ask fellow researchers working in distant archives to digitize and upload documents useful for their own ongoing research. They can find colleagues working on similar topics and participate in forums on specific documents or on general research problems. Users can tag and add metadata to documents thus providing new and varied contexts. The tag cloud captures the scope of the collection and research interests of the community at any given moment.
According to reliable estimates, millions of privately digitized archival documents are stored on private computers and could be shared with other interested researchers for the benefit of the larger scholarly community. PA offers this possibility. As envisioned, PA will be a repository of documents from archives and personal collections across the world; it is structured to complement existing archives, providing varied contexts and perspectives. Importantly, PA enables scholars to locate the archive possessing the original document to authenticate their findings and discover related material. Content curation ensures the quality of the material and descriptive information provided by users, and PA guarantees that content is stable, accessible, and preserved.
In this case it is the individual researcher who decides what is intellectually and professionally important, and scholars are not forced to rely only on the discretion of either funding agencies or archival institutions. In this way, PA helps to unearth hidden documents from archives around the world.