Introduction and Thoughts on Readings

Hi everyone. I’m Maya Reid. I’m starting my second year in the MLIS program and my specialization is Archives and Digital Curation. Preservation is an important aspect of digital curation, so I’m taking this class to learn more about the work and concept.

I’m currently working on my field study at the NASA Goddard Library as a Digital Collections Intern and am also a student assistant in the Special Collections and University Archives on campus. I worked previously as a digitization assistant in the Digitization Center in Hornbake Library. I have experience with digitizing analog materials and screening for file corruption, but still have a lot to learn about preservation.

Professor Owen’s statement that “Preservation is the result of ongoing work of people and commitments of resources. The work is never finished” stood out to me. In my other class this week, Curation in Cultural Institutions, we discussed how digital objects are even more prone to alteration and corruption than analog materials. I had not considered the amount of labor and resources that goes into preserving digital collections. Working in the Special Collections, I suppose I had an idea that a box of records could be shelved in a climate-controlled room and be good to go as far as preservation is concerned (and I realize preservation of analog materials is more detailed than that), so I think I had the same perception for digital objects. That there could be some digital “climate-controlled room” objects could be placed to be properly preserved. I appreciate the wake-up call that digital preservation is more laborious than that.

Lyons brings up a good point when he states archivists are “hidden in the public narrative.” Whenever I tell someone about my studies, the majority of people ask me what an archive or archivist is. It was grating but unsurprising to read about Cerf’s perspective, wherein he seems to think no one preserves digital artifacts. From prior coursework I have garnered that the answer to this dilemma is always “advocacy.” GLAM institutions can empower themselves by advocating to their greater institutions, their user group, wider community, and so on. Thus it was disheartening for me to read Tansey’s contrasting point of view that advocacy doesn’t always work, especially in more bureaucratic institutions. Tansey describes the “cycle of poverty that afflicts archives” and how lack of funding can lead to a digital dark age. I had a lot of faith in the power of advocacy due to previous classes, but now have my doubts about its effectiveness and what the reality of budgetary constraints looks like. I’m interested in what other classmates have to say about Tansey’s essay.

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