Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 17, No. 351.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
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Date: Tue, 28 Oct 2003 07:59:09 +0000
From: Willard McCarty <email@example.com>
Subject: further reservations on preservation
Let us assume for the purposes of argument that digital preservation proves
impractical in the long term, let us say (if a reason is needed) for the
reason that porting all the world's data from system to system, format to
format, metalanguage to metalanguage, is too great a task. Not impossible,
simply beyond the resources of all but the richest governments and
multinational companies. What, then, would be our situation? With respect
to research we would have an agile medium in which to experiment and
publish freely our short-term results, and a stable, very slow-moving
medium in which to communicate and document matters so important that we
considered them worthy of outlasting us.
Let's be honest with ourselves. What that we do really deserves to last?
Some of it, yes, perhaps from some of us. I have in mind not only that a
great deal of what we do is not all that valuable, not only that most if
not all of what we have done is experimental, but also that the present
moment is what we have, and that we are teachers.
Helen Tibbo, in "Archival Perspectives on the Emerging Digital Library",
Communications of the ACM 44.5 (2001): 69-70, says that in general
archivists save about 5% of the original bulk of a collection; she points
out that the materials handled by librarians have already been winnowed via
review and publication to a significant degree. Saving everything, she
argues, especially in an era of documentary abundance, means finding
nothing. So, it would seem, asking how we're going to keep everything the
digital medium contains is asking the wrong question. Allow me to suggest
that a much better question is how to employ the media we've got for jobs
for which they are well suited.
Dr Willard McCarty | Senior Lecturer | Centre for Computing in the
Humanities | King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS || +44 (0)20
7848-2784 fax: -2980 || firstname.lastname@example.org
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