Much has been made in recent years of the transformative potential of digital resources and historical data for historical research. Historians seem to be flooded with retro-digitized and born-digital materials and tend to take these for granted, grateful for the opportunities they afford. In a research environment that increasingly privileges what is available online, the questions of why, where, and how we can access what we can access, and how it affects historical research have become ever more urgent. This article proposes a framework through which to contextualize the politics of (digital) heritage preservation, and a model to analyze its most important political dimensions, drawing upon literature from the digital humanities & history as well as archival, library and information science. The first part will outline the global dimensions of the politics of digital cultural heritage, focusing on developments between and within the Global North and South, framed within the broader context of the politics of heritage and its preservation. The second part surveys the history and current state of digitization and offers a structured analysis of the process of digitization and its political dimensions. Choices and decisions about selection for digitization, how to catalogue, classify and what metadata to add are all political in nature and have political consequences, and the same is true for access. The article concludes with several recommendations and a plea to acknowledge the importance of digital cataloguing in enabling access to the global human record.
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