Last Friday, I posted a small part of my IST 677 lecture. This week, I asked students to comment on the readings they had done thus far for this class, and several mentioned the articles on the "Long Tail" which I wrote about last week. For some, the readings on the Long Tail really helped them grasp how much content is out there (and often hidden).
Other students have commented on the term "preservation." Everyone seems to understand that digitization does not preserve the original artifact, but does preserve the item's content (e.g., the words in a book). However, confusion sprang up over the term "preservation reformatting"; a phrase used Abby Smith's "Why Digitize?" (Preservation reformatting can be defined as a new format provides a faithful rendering of a printed text from the original item.) The traditional way of doing preservation reformatting is to microfilm the materials. Microfilming does has its problems, especially if the quality assurance procedures are lax, but microfilm stored in the correct conditions will last for many years. (And that has been proven.) Microfilm can also be read with low-tech equipment (a magnifier), unlike the high-tech requirements for viewing a digital image.
So, is digitization a valid way of doing preservation reformatting? Yes, but we must recognize that keeping that digital asset viable for the long-term is not easy. We might even say that it is fraught with problems! So if you are trying to preserve the information for the long-term (decades), in a different format from the original, creating microforms is still the way to go.
So why digitize if it is not about preserving the content of the original item? Access. Unlike microfilm, digital assets can provide greater access to the materials. Access assures that the materials are known, used and studied. Yup...access!
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