Greetings and musings

Hello all, this is Tricia Glaser. I’m starting my second year of the MLIS program, and I’m focusing on the Museum Studies and Material Culture certificate. My motivation to take this class is pretty simple–I’m both interested in and intimidated by learning more about digital preservation (and curation) issues in our field. The former because these topics greatly concern museum practices; the latter because I am very unfamiliar with said topics. So I’m looking forward to learning a lot this semester!

I’m originally from Michigan and moved here last July to attend UMD. My only experience in a GLAM organization prior to school was at a public library for three years, where I worked in both the Circulation and Reference departments. It felt like it took forever to figure out what I wanted to do post-undergrad (graduated in 2009!). I bounced around for a while in the service industry, non-profit work, and served in the Peace Corps in 2012. It wasn’t until my entry into public library work did I realize that I’d found a career path. I’m still very glad that I could also use grad school as a reason to move; the DMV area is pretty great!

small dog
A picture of my dog, Luna, just because.

The readings were quite fascinating. I appreciated the Kuny article and the introduction from the textbook for laying clear groundwork on what constitutes digital preservation and its challenges. Regarding those axioms, I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I used to consider backing up data as part of digital preservation. I also liked that both readings recommended accepting the “archival sliver,” as Prof. Owens calls it. Acknowledging that nothing is permanent and that large quantities of digital content are already lost (and more will follow) seems necessary in order to accurately prioritize what to preserve. 

I enjoyed both of the Issues & Advocacy posts, but found the argument in “Institutional Silences and the Digital Dark Age,” by Eira Tansey more compelling. It makes sense that many archivists work at institutions that don’t give them say over things like records mandates or retention scheduling, and therefore, a digital dark age is a more realistic possibility. Nothing happens in a vacuum, and Tansey is right that there would need to be organization-wide buy-in to fully tack preservation issues.

2 Replies to “Greetings and musings”

  1. Hey Tricia,
    First off, I too had the misconception that backing up data was not preservation, but I think it’s a good step towards it, especially for a personal or smaller archive.

    I also liked how you mentioned that it’s not ALL our (archivists) fault that there is lost information and some of the blame can be given to the organization’s failure to follow mandates and retention schedules. I had forgotten about this point in Tansey and glad that you added that piece to our blog discussion as it seems a lot of us, including myself, are becoming defensive about the necessity and lack of a spotlight on our profession, especially when it comes to digital material.

    Your mention of the “archival sliver” and not saving everything that comes through an archives’ door or intranet also got me to thinking about how some may perceive that there is a digital Dark Age when really, the gap in information was a conscious decision to not keep certain digital records. The fact that some people don’t know about our profession, or fail to recognize it, (people like Cerf) makes it totally plausible to think that information was “lost” when it was really just properly disposed of. This isn’t to say that digital records that should have been kept weren’t deleted, just that people who don’t know about us may be adding hysteria to a situation that we are seeming to control, or at least attempting to control.

  2. Hi Tricia,

    I’m glad you are liking the DMV area! There are a lot of opportunities here for working in a GLAM institution.

    I agree with you that Kuny’s article provided a lot of insight about digital preservation. I was surprised to read that preserving the “original digital artifact is not important,” as that seems to go against preservation – if you’re putting the effort into preserving something, why would you not preserve the artifact itself? But I think I understand Kuny’s point now. If the digital object is successfully copied and its provenance maintained, then researchers can have the same understanding of the object and its context through use of the digital copy. I also appreciated Kuny’s guidelines for how to avoid a total digital dark age.

    I also found the Tansey article quite compelling. With the digital dark age as a looming possibility, how do archivists encourage their institutions to buy-in into digital preservation?

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