Hello to everyone, my name is Kerry Huller and I am in my second year of the Digital Curation and Archives program. I am getting close to finishing the degree and was excited to see a new class being offered in digital curation, which was also specific to the arts.
My undergraduate education was in photojournalism and over the years I have worked for various publications. Photography was strictly analog when I began, but digital tools slowly began to make an appearance. By the time I had my first permanent job as a newspaper photographer, everything about the process was digital. From these very early days in digital newspaper photography, circa 1998, it was clear that archiving the work was going to be a problem. The newspaper I worked for had made no plans for saving anything. Back then, only images that ran in the paper were being saved, and they were only getting backed up to the computer’s hard drive, until of course we began to run out of room. At that point, a disgruntled IT staff member elected to trash what little had been saved to eliminate the problem.
As the Smithsonian Interview Project points out, preserving photography and film, or any art that began as analog work, is much more stable today. But, the conservation of digital art beyond this typical analog-turned-digital variety is a very young field. Christine Frohnert estimates it is roughly 15 years old in the Smithsonian article. All of the readings seem to stress that preservation just needs to start somewhere, anywhere. We just need to work on it, experiment and realize it is an evolving process. As Catherine points out in her post, and my own experience tells me, we will lose things. But, if newspapers have learned to no longer store photographs on a computer hard drive and that they should not throw them away when that hard drive is full, then we have made progress.
It has been a messy path, but I do think collaboration is key to moving forward. Fino-Radin stresses communication with the artist, while the Smithsonian article and Rinehart and Ippolito’s book highlight working with a variety of stakeholders, including the artist, curators, conservators, archivists, programmers, etc. This leads me to a question that has constantly come up while pursuing my MLS – how tech savvy does an archivist need to be in today’s world? Yes, a large organization will have a lot of staff to fill these roles, but what about small institutions? What do you think is feasible for a staff that may only consist of a few people or is perhaps a one-man show?