In my role as an institutional archivist, embracing digital preservation is necessity. An archivist serves as a steward of the past; we preserve and make accessible unique resources, winnowing out masses of material to bring to light amazing narratives. I love the prospect of building and developing the collection of the future, expanding successful strategic alliances, forging effective courses of action to get my program out there, and aligning my cataloging and acquisition priorities to the current community needs. However, and I am being absolutely real, I don’t especially love the learning curve.
What’s an archivist to do?
1. START AT THE BEGINNING
What are digital records?
“Digital records is a broad term encompassing digital surrogates created as a result of converting analog materials to digital form; born – digital, for which there has never been and is never intending to be an analog equivalent; and electronic records.” – Digital Preservation Coalition
Wait, born – digital?! What does that mean?
Think: Anything that you create on social media sites for example, or on your smartphone perhaps.
” Digital materials which are not intended to have an analog equivalent, either as the originating source or as a result of conversion to analog form. This term is used to differentiate from 1) digital materials which have been created as a result of converting analog originals; and 2) digital materials which may have originated from a digital source but have been printed to paper, e.g. some electronic records.” – Digital Preservation Coalition
And electronic records…how are they different exactly?
” Records created digitally in the day-to-day business of the organization and assigned formal status by the organization. They may include, for example, word processing documents, emails, databases, or web pages.” – Digital Preservation Coalition
For those of us interested in continuing our mission to document, preserve, develop and present archival collections into the future, embracing digital records is a matter of survival.
Digital records are better than paper, yeah?
Digital records are extremely fragile. One wouldn’t think that something so intangible could be so fragile. Although we can’t tear or shred digital records, files can become destroyed, corrupted or obsolete. Because they are so intangible, it is easy to create so many files. Plus, creating digital files is cost-deferred, meaning that it’s often cheaper for people and organizations to create and store digital files instead of analog. Without the physical limitations of space, the world is ours to document.
How do I get started?
“Many people like to treat electronic records as they do the weather: by, as Mark Twain said, complaining about it but doing nothing about it. We are now decades from the point at which that was an excusable way for archivists to address the issue of electronic records.” – Geof Huth, New York State Archives