17.439 digital preservation

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Date: Mon Dec 08 2003 - 03:10:01 EST

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 17, No. 439.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                         Submit to: humanist@princeton.edu

       [1] From: Alexandre Enkerli <aenkerli@indiana.edu> (26)
             Subject: Re: 17.436 digital preservation

       [2] From: dgants@rogers.com (16)
             Subject: Re: 17.436, Digital Preservation

       [3] From: Humanist <dgants@rogers.com> (5)
             Subject: RE: 17.436 digital preservation

             Date: Mon, 08 Dec 2003 07:54:21 +0000
             From: Alexandre Enkerli <aenkerli@indiana.edu>
             Subject: Re: 17.436 digital preservation

    [Disclaimer: I'm really not an archivist. Just thinking out loud.]

    Interesting quote from Garfinkel's article:
    "Not all digital material is worth preserving—most, in fact, is not. But
    Domesday was worth preserving and, as a result, it has been."
    At first, the two statements seem quite insightful. The first part seems to
    be a common principle for archivists and we're not talking about preserving
    all of the spam we receive. The second part implies that worthy data may be
    transfered to current formats as time goes on. File formats need not be
    forward compatible as long as they're open and easy to migrate to newer
    formats. So far, so good. (Especially if you add the obvious requirement
    that the format should be lossless and ensures some redundancy.)
    But isn't there an assumption about the inherent worthiness of specific
    documents? Not to philosophize but how can we know now what will be
    relevant data in the future? Sure, large costly projects should ensure that
    their data should be preserved. But isn't there still a risk that the more
    information we have exclusively in digital form, the more likely it is that
    we might lose interesting historical data?
    I'm really not a doom-sayer against digital preservation. In fact, I find
    reassuring the amount of consideration this issue has deserved recently. By
    talking about these issues, we can avoid past mistakes and effectively
    preserve important data. But by using an archeological frame of mind, we'd
    say that someone's junk might become somebody else's data, after a while...

    Alexandre Enkerli
    Ph.D. Candidate
    Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology
    Indiana University

             Date: Mon, 08 Dec 2003 07:55:10 +0000
             From: dgants@rogers.com
             Subject: Re: 17.436, Digital Preservation

    Hello all,

    There is little doubt that the danger posed by unstable digital formats has
    been exagerated, especially in the popular mind. So too has the
    celebration of older physical forms been built upon a number of unexamined
    assumptions. Those of us working in the field of bibliography and book
    history are familiar with how frequently books disappear altogether. D. F.
    McKenzie points to just one of many cases in "Printing and Publishing
    1557-1700: Constraints on the London Book Trades," published in *The
    Cambridge History of the Book in Britain, Vol. IV* (2003). He cites
    "Thomas Dyche's *Guide to the English tongue*, printed by Charles Ackers in
    thrity-three editions and some 275,000 copies between 1733 and 1749. Only
    five copies from those editions are known to be extant: a survival rate of
    one in 55,000" (p. 560).

    Lest one dismiss this and other example as phenomena that occur only in
    past centuries, try to find a Seattle telephone book from the Reagan years.....

    Dave Gants

             Date: Mon, 08 Dec 2003 07:56:02 +0000
             From: Humanist <dgants@rogers.com>
             Subject: RE: 17.436 digital preservation

    ------ Forwarded Message
    From: Norman Hinton <hinton@springnet1.com>
    Date: Sun, 07 Dec 2003 13:02:17 -0600

    One might respond, Willard, that the reason that Domesday Book data has
    not been lost is that it was not originally put on a computer....

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