This week’s readings solidified what I see as a collector in the present day (being any librarian or archivist). You will need to understand digital objects and have the confidence necessary to handle them.
Understanding the objects
The need to understand how a digital object functions in the information is imperative for the current and future relevance of the field. As modern information professionals, we all will work with digital objects: ranging from the catalog record, to more complex digital files such as images, articles, and books. The Owens chapter clearly illustrated the minute mechanics of a digital object. (It reminded me of how large internet companies track your internet browsing and searching. It also made me think that this practice may not be as scary as the news has made it out to be.) He also explained the importance of understanding these details and using them to become better digital curators and managers of digital content. Basically, if we know what makes up a digital object, and how we can optimally organize those objects, we can better preserve our collections and provide access to the general public.
When considering physical collections, space is such a clear consideration. Physical items take up physical space. Digital items take up space in a similar, more abstract way. They take up virtual space. We, as digital information professionals would need to work to ensure that our digital objects take up as little space as possible without losing some of the quality necessary to consider the object to be the same.
Practice of preparing, preserving, and using digital objects
In the Chan article, prestigious design museums have begun cataloging and digitally preserving symbols that have become popularized as a digital form (such as the “@” symbol) as claim-able objects. The authors explain the need for a thought process and concept where something like the “@” symbol can be digitally claimed and preserved: “The larger issue facing design museums is that more and more of the products “made” by design practitioners now lack any form at all.” In traditional media, design objects would be fully physical, or at least more easily claim-able by an institution. Now, however, design objects are created and continue to live in a virtual space. Design creators have become unwilling or unable to fully contribute to the longlasting preservation of their work.
Alternately, this can also come in handy when digital forensics are needed. Kirschenbaum and team explain this process and the necessity for awareness of how digital objects could be used for forensics and larger problem solving. In the information professionals’ world, this is often accessing records on outdated and no-longer-used systems. They lay out three reasonable options for ensuring continued access to materials: migrate the files and save both the original and the manipulated files, retain or obtain the original systems required for the media, and create or use an emulation to show the material on modern systems as if it were on the original system.
Questions for the class
How do you think having an understanding of digital objects will help you when you go to consult with your small institution?
How might we (future information professionals) go about preserving these kinds of digital objects now that we understand their makeup and how they can be saved?