Archival projects involve the description and organization of objects, materials, people, and ideas, typically through the creation of a database, repository, collection/archive, or content management system. In some cases, the process includes the digitization of physical materials, but it can also focus entirely on collecting and sorting records that are already in a digital form. The goal of such projects is usually to make it easier to search, sort, or interact with, and/or present scholarship using content.
Archival projects may be intended as a research tool for a single researcher or small group of researchers, as when a scholar develops a database using an off-the-shelf program to keep track of images for a book, or when an instructor creates a repository of readings or examples for a class. A larger archival project might create a custom interface where a general audience can explore a set of documents that are not regularly accessible. The difficulty of archival projects varies depending on the number and complexity of the records involved, the form of the material to be archived, and the types of searching or interaction required by the end user.
Sometimes archival projects stand alone, but digital archives are also often a first step in a larger research or presentation project. Examples might include creating a personal collection to use for a book or teaching, enabling calculations or mapping processes on large groups of information, or creating stories or paths through archival data.
It is very common for an archival project to be part of a larger project that uses other digital humanities tools. Taking the time to make sure your data is properly defined, structured, and stored will make it much easier to accomplish other digital projects.