Hi, I’m Emily Flint. I’m a MLIS student following the Archives and Digital Curation track and I plan to graduate in December. Currently, I work as a student assistant for the Maryland and Historical Collections unit of Special Collections here at UMD. I don’t have much experience with digital preservation, so I figured it was probably past time to take a class like this. Other classes have briefly touched on digital preservation issues, but I don’t feel like I know how to actually *do* the work and I’m excited to learn and discuss with you all this semester.
I was definitely frustrated by Vint Cerf’s comments in the BBC article, partially because he ignores the contributions that people have already been making in this field and also because the language he used was somewhat exaggerated. Do we really need “all the images and documents we’ve been saving on computers” to last? I think that people who make these types of doom and gloom arguments are also making an assumption that we all want our “stuff” to be preserved for generations. While many people don’t want to lose access to their most important files, others may not see a need to preserve their content indefinitely. What about people who have privacy concerns or who would prefer to be forgotten?
This isn’t to say that Cerf’s “digital vellum” solution is entirely without merit or that we shouldn’t devote resources to digital preservation. But I believe that thoughtful appraisal is important. For this reason, axiom #14 from the Owens introduction (accept and embrace the archival sliver) really resonated with me. If we waste time preserving things that don’t have much value, then we’re not making the best use of our resources and our users will ultimately have a harder time wading through the junk to find the content that they actually need.
Of course, deciding which records have the most value is easier said than done. I appreciated Bertram Lyons’ reminder that our collecting practices have resulted in archival silences and I agree that it’s important to proactively address gaps in our collections. I’d also add that it’s important to be transparent about the decisions we make as professionals and to invite the creators and users of records to participate in the appraisal and preservation process where possible. The institutional constraints that Tansey acknowledges are very real. We won’t be able to preserve everything and we might not even have the necessary resources to preserve the “archival sliver.” But we can at least document the decision making process and explain why we prioritized some digital materials over others. Perhaps increased transparency would help to reduce fears about the digital dark age.