Sunday, May 8, 2011

What about the archives in 2025?

With all our discussion of the future of libraries, sometimes we forget to discuss the future of archives. Libraries and archives have gone hand in hand for centuries, and libraries serve as an access point to archival materials. Forward-thinking libraries and archives are working diligently to digitize their content in order to allow patrons 24/7 access, and the ability to view materials without setting foot into the library. We tend to think of these materials as old: handwritten letters, black and white photographs, meeting minutes typed on a type-writer. But what about materials that are born-digital? Particularly items that, though digital, are still old. Floppy disc, anyone?

The following article, “Digital Legacy: Respecting the digital dead,” examines how libraries and archives are acquiring floppy discs, hard drives, and other forms of digital technology that have evolved rapidly and/or died out within the last 10-20 years. Without touching the original files, digital forensics are employed to replicate the data and make it useable by researchers. This particular article describes how a researcher uses a special computer in the library to navigate the desktop of an evolutionary biologist.

This current system has its flaws-- the computer programs have no way of identifying what is sensitive and what is not, potentially requiring close curation; it also appears that the materials, though digital, can only be viewed on site. The article points to technologies in the future that will address these issues. Who knows, in 2025 maybe we’ll be able to view these and other digital files with relative ease? Looking forward to it!

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