My name is Rosemary and I am a second-year MLIS student at UMD, specializing in Archives and Digital Curation. Due to personal, academic, and professional exposure to archives, as well as my love for and academic interest in traditional music, I began this course with an appreciation of how many important aspects of the history of cultures can be made only by looking at original manuscripts, recordings, and pictures, and hence why the preservation, digitization, and availability of archives is so important for the future of research and our society. I have since spent time working in several cultural heritage and folk culture libraries/archives, including the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, and the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library (of the English Folk Dance and Song Society).
My internships, as well as the courses I have taken so far in the program, have opened my eyes further to how important digital preservation is right now! I am not overlooking physical preservation – this, I believe, is still incredibly important, especially to a true understanding of folk cultures. However, so many things are now born-digital, and cultures are more and more revolving around the digital, that we as archivists need to really focus on making sure this digital content continues to be available to the public. And we are doing this! As Bertram Lyons insists in his blog post “There Will Be No Digital Dark Age”, archivists are, and have been, doing lots of work for digital preservation (2016). It is easy for journalists, and the public, to grasp on to this fearful and sensationalist notion that one day soon all of our digital content will just disappear, whether due to physical media, hardware, or software obsolescence, or a massive meteor strike, who knows. This seems to be what Google’s Vint Cerf wants us to believe as he preaches about “digital vellum”, a solution that sounds more like a sales pitch (BBC interview, 2015).
The very existence of the Archives and Digital Curation program, and especially this class, demonstrates that as a field, we are very aware of the importance of digital preservation. And, it is not only the United States who are aware. Lyons mentions the British Library in his list of entities that are working on the digital preservation problem. The British Library has worked hard to create a comprehensive Digital Preservation Strategy. The international community is working together to create plans, policies, standards, and strategies to ensure access to our history and heritage, “regardless of the challenges of media failure and technological change” (ALCTS Preservation and Reformatting Section, ALA Annual Conference, 2007). There is even an International Conference on Digital Preservation!
All of that being said, I do not think it a completely bad thing to instill perhaps just a bit of fear in the public eye (forgive me Mr. Lyons). After all, we want those in every field to understand the importance of digital preservation, for it is something that is and will begin to affect every field, and is important in every field. While scaring companies to use Google’s new service (if it come to fruition) is not the ideal outcome, at least the issue is appearing in the mainstream media, which will get people from all walks of life thinking about it. (Not to mention this will help groups get grants for further research…)
I am very excited for what is coming in the future of digital preservation, for the international community will discover, and for what I will learn in this class and beyond, so that I can contribute to the preservation of our records and heritage!