Thinking Beyond Open Access: What are Sustainable, Accessible, and Socially Just Publishing Practices and Preservation Techniques?

Here at the Historical Cooking Project, we have committed to making food studies scholarship accessible by showcasing the work of scholars writing about their work in ways that can be enjoyed by experts and the general public alike. All content is provided to the reader free of cost. But, is the Historical Cooking Project truly accessible? Are these practices sustainable? And for how long?

Apart from language barriers (the HCP is published in English and French but predominately in English), economics barriers to buying or using computer/browsing devices, and paying for or finding internet access, what other barriers to accessibility does the Historical Cooking Project experience?

Although the site began as a collective project, our editor, Dr. Alex Ketchum, has been maintaining the site by herself for the last 3.5 years without any financial support while finishing her PhD and working 4 other jobs. All writing, editing, promotion/ marketing, and outreach has been on her own time. 

All of our authors are unpaid. We offer to promote their other projects and often trade labor by writing/editing for their own projects. 

Despite its limitations on customization, the HCP is run through the Blogger platform. This means that Ketchum does not have to pay hosting fees, but the domain name renewals, while around 20 dollars a year are not exorbitant, are still out of her pocket.

Free is never free.

By choosing to host our site with the Blogger platform, we are vulnerable to the whims of Google. They could shut us down or shut down the platform without notice.

We lost control of our original Twitter account for seemingly no reason, losing 835 posts and all of our followers. We have only regained a quarter of our followers. When we contacted Twitter we were blocked from our account and after submitting an appeal, we received an automatic response that our appeal had been rejected. 

Despite claims of interest in digital humanities projects and public history, websites such as these garner little merit on tenure applications/ job applications as compared to peer reviewed articles. 

We 100% believe in the importance of public history and making research as accessible as possible. However, we do so at cost to ourselves (the time I am spending writing this piece is time not spent working on my journal article, job applications, or doing course prep for the 7 class I am teaching this year). 

Despite a passion for doing this work and the rewarding conversations and collaborations it produces, it comes at a cost. This relates to a larger discussion about the exploitation of passion. 

Projects such as this one rely on the energy levels and personal resources of usually one individual. This reality makes the project vulnerable to any changes in that person's life.

Our recent post about the Digital Dark Ages began to touch on this subject, but we didn't discuss it within the context of our own site. 

We've contacted one university archivist to see if they were interested in helping us preserve the project and they did not show interest. Outside of saving the posts as word file documents and saving them on external hard drives and digital storage, we are not really sure what to do. Our editor has been diving into CritLib (critical librarianship literature) lately, but has yet to find a solution! Please share your ideas!

Later this fall, our editor will be co-organizing an event to explore these questions further. Details will be posted as soon as possible (so please stay tuned)! But for our non-Montreal readers, we would love to hear your thoughts. 

Thinking Beyond Open Access: What are Sustainable, Accessible Publishing Practices and Preservation Techniques?

And very importantly, what are peoples ideas for how to preserve/ archive/ store/ save the over 215 posts published on this site?

Please comment below or tweet us @historical_cook


  1. Are you familiar with the Internet Archive/Wayback Machine? [ ] It's not a complete solution to the digital preservation problem, but I think it ought to feature in any preservation strategy. At the moment at least all the HCP individual posts are preserved, even if elements of the site structure are missing.

    For example, this page on the HCP:

    Guest Post: Dried Fruit and the Cocktail Menace: Race, Food, and Purity in Interwar South Africa

    appears like this on the Internet Archive:

    If you'd like to know more I can explain a bit about how and why the archived version differs from the original - I just didn't want to compose a lengthy explanation in case these are things you know already!

    1. Thank you so much! I do know a bit about the Internet Archive. I am wondering though about other possible solutions.


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