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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Digital archives

A friend sent me a link to an article in Library Journal, The E-Memory Revolution, which discusses a topic that is so important to archives and archivists - digital archiving. I can't imagine an archives that isn't affected by this revolution, unless it's run by Luddites.

One thing that gives me the heebie-jeebies, though, is where the author says, "We horrify archivists when we talk about digitizing things and then throwing them away. Of course, one need not destroy the physical object after making a digital copy, but one of the most enjoyable aspects of Total Recall is the reduction of clutter; it is especially satisfying to shred one's papers and eliminate rows of filing cabinets and shelves. When curators come to deal with our archives, they will surely find hundreds fewer physical objects because of Total Recall. But they will have hundreds of thousands of additional digital artifacts. Whether you agree that is a highly positive trade-off, it is surely coming."

Archivists are fascinated by having/handling the real thing. I'm a big fan of not keeping multiple copies of some journal article but no way is some one-of-a-kind document going through the shredder because we've scanned it. Will I pitch my uncle's handwritten pages of his poetry because I have 600 ppi scans of them? I'll keep that clutter, thank you.

2 comments:

Mike Rhode said...

And then when the software or hardware changes, one can go lie on one of those empty shelves and rue the day.

Maggie said...

One of my jobs at a museum here was to copy originals in the Subject Files then throw those originals away. I was heart broken. Touching the real stuff really mattered.