Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Article: Archiving Writers' Work in the Age of E-Mail

The Chronicle of Higher Education has an article in the April 10 issue entitled "Archiving Writers' Work in the Age of E-Mail". If you are a Chronicle subscriber, then you can read the article online. If you're at an academic institution in the U.S., you likely have a copy of the issue somewhere. If you have no access to the Chronicle, well I'm sorry.

What's the article about? Well, archives are facing new access and preservation issues as writers (and others) donate personal papers that include digital media. The article states that among John Updike's personal effects were floppy disks, which is old (dead) technology. How do you curate a collection of dead digital media? How do create access to these materials? It is clear that there are no easy answer. For now, these archives are keeping everything as they think through the issues.

Addendum (7:35 p.m.): The full-text of the article is now available online. I wrote the text above from memory, since I was able to read the article in print yesterday, but not online this morning when I was blogging. So as I now re-read the article, I see text about them transferring data to new media, and I also see a very interesting phrase - ecosystems of data. As Matthew G. Kirschenbaum, associate director of the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities at the University of Maryland, said:
You could potentially look at a browser history, see that he visited a particular Web site on a particular day and time. And then if you were to go into the draft of one of his manuscripts, you could see that draft was edited at a particular day and hour, and you could establish a connection between something he was looking at on the Web with something that he then wrote.
For more on this, read the article.

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1 comment:

Ben said...

Hi, Jill!

The article is available now:

There are a lot of people doing more than just keeping the old media around. So long as the media is not corrupted, there are documented strategies for accessing the data, authenticating it, and then ultimately migrating it to a newer format. I recommend reading this article, a case study on accessioning, processing, describing and making available files from old floppies.