Thursday, June 30, 2005

Preservation, Archives and Records, Oh, My!

Josh Shear in his blog, blogJosh, has a long posting on archiving information. Josh pulled together information from several articles and sources, noting that both digital and paper-based information is on the verge of being lost because we don't have the space or technology to keep it. In writing about the problem, Josh quotes the article "The Fading Memory of the State:"
Because the [U.S. National] Archives has no good system for taking in more data, a tremendous backlog has built up. Census records, service records, Pentagon records of Iraq War decision-making, diplomatic messages--all sit in limbo at federal departments or in temporary record-holding centers around the country. A new avalanche of records from the Bush administration--the most electronic presidency yet--will descend in three and a half years, when the president leaves office. Leaving records sitting around at federal agencies for years, or decades, worked fine when everything was on paper, but data bits are nowhere near as reliable--and storing them means paying not just for the storage media, but for a sophisticated management system and extensive IT staff.
In thinking specifically of paper files, Josh mentions that people like me want paper files kept even after the materials have been digitized. I do advocate keeping paper, because you can always read it. Personally, though, I should admit that I don't keep paper copies of everything. I know it is a risk, but one that I'm willing to take. I also know that a good portion of the information I have isn't unique, so it can be found again. Let's hope that these important files mentioned above (e.g., records of Iraq War decision-making) are held in multiple locations so that there are better odds of them surviving for future generations to study.

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