Private Archives/Public Good: Classic Mexican Film on Line Part 2

Arjan van Dijk the Acquisitions Editor, BRILL wrote to me in response to my 28th February post:

 Dear Dr Thornton,

I just came across your blog from 28 February at While I realise that scholars benefit from free access to primary sources, someone needs to pay the bill for organising and managing a project like this, securing all permissions, selecting the materials to be included (with help of a paid specialist editor), digitising the magazines, creating metadata, building a platform, and making librarians and scholars aware of its existence through advertisements, mailings, etc. From idea to publication, this project has taken more than four years. Increasingly, governments are cutting funds for digitisation projects. A commercial publisher like Brill invests in a project like this at its own risk, taking on the obligation to provide access to these rare sources for a long time to come. At the same time, I know various examples of public funded digitisation projects which are no longer available online because of ongoing hosting costs not being budgeted.

 Thanks to this project, rare and brittle magazines and unique archival materials have now been digitally preserved and disseminated. Many researchers and students have now access to materials they would otherwise not be able to study.  

As you point out in your blog, one can travel to Mexico City to study these resources, but that’s not free either. When a university purchases this database, all faculty members and students have online access for many years to come, and they can study the items in the database any time they like, from their own laptops. The database can also be used for teaching purposes. I believe this is a great service to the scholarly community.


I am happy to put up his reply, as I know that someone has to pay to access this material, it is great to have a reliable resource that has such a range of content, and I commend Brill for having carried out this work.  A very good case is made for private archives and their sustainability, so, I hope this one lasts.  I know sustainability is an issue with publically funded archives and it was a source of much debate at the Digital Humanities panel at the AHGBI conference at Stirling in April.  There was little optimism that publically funded databases would last long, except for those attached to already well-resourced institutions.  My lament is with the fact that these resources are not being paid for and maintained by Universities and governments through research bodies and consequently treated as a public good.  For those who want to carry out research on Classic Mexican Cinema and whose library can afford it, here is the link:  I recommend it.

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