It’s hard to believe, but I began to archive anarchist materials online almost twenty years ago. I was working with an established online archive, but I kept finding that the material that I was most interested in making available tended to sit right on the margins of what was considered appropriate for those collections. I was exploring mutualism, for example, at a time when none of us were quite sure how to think about that school of thought, primarily because we didn’t really know what it was.
The first version of the Libertarian Labyrinth archive was essentially just a collection of works by and about Greene, but that ended up covering quite a bit of ground, as the Rev. Mr. William Batchelder Greene had not only been an American interpreter of Proudhon and an early defender of women’s rights, but also a Union Army colonel, tasked with the defense of Washington during the Civil War, a freemason, and probably a neurasthenic.
The personalities ended up interesting me as much as the ideas and ideologies, and as my research continued and the archive grew, it inevitably ended up including a lot of articles on bee-keeping, library cataloging, spelling reform, etc. What started out as a bit of an accident has become collection development policy over the years. What you will find in the Libertarian Labyrinth is material by and about anarchists, whether or not it is about anarchism.
For several years, the Labyrinth archive has been primarily a Mediawiki-based affair, with some duplicate and special collections spread over a number of blogs. It has been very much like having my file cabinet open to the internet, with things in a variety of stages of completion. But the focus has been largely on the texts. Recently, it seems to me that a number of things have changed, both in my own focus and in the sites available from which to serve texts, and I’m inclined to think that my time may be better spent on indexes and bibliographies. So the new center of the Labyrinth is an Omeka-based catalog, featuring a library of close to 1500 bibliographic records, of which almost 500 now include the full, formatted text of the articles. Specialized collections which have been housed on separate blogs will gradually become libraries and exhibits there. The old Libertarian Labyrinth wiki will remain for those projects best adapted to wiki-style hypertext, and a couple of other related sites will probably eventually be folded into the wiki. Many more of the texts that have been available on the wiki will be shared with cooperating sites like The Anarchist Library.
It’s a long, slow, sometimes messy process, but I’m working steadily, and expect to have most of the integration and clean-up accomplished by summer’s end.