Introductory Post: Margot

Hello all,

My name is Margot Willis and I am a second year HiLS (HiLIS?) student here at UMD. I’m currently studying for my MA in history with a concentration in Medieval and Early Modern Europe and my MLIS with an emphasis on archives. My volunteer and work experience has given me short glimpses of academic library, small-town museum, and archival work, but ultimately I’d really like to work in a special collection or museum environment. If possible, I’d love to work with a collection that falls under my historical purview. While Medieval European collections are few and far in between here in the States, I’m determined to find them and hopefully work in one… eventually.

As I said in class, I originally intended to take the Preservation for Libraries and Archives course, but it was cancelled, so I am taking this course instead. However, even before I was pushed to switch classes, I had the feeling that I probably should have been taking this class anyway. Digital preservation is probably one of the most valuable tools in the information field at this point in time, and one that I have little experience with. I’m looking forward to learning about the process and policies of digital preservation and actually putting them to good use. I was excited to hear last night that we will be working from a more practical perspective this semester. Abstract thought is well and good, but after several semesters of what feels like never-ending abstraction and little application, I’m excited at the prospect of applying what we learn in a real-world setting.

Had I written this post before last night, I would have had very simple and opinionated comments about the articles we read, particularly the BBC article. However, after listening to what the rest of the class had to say about the readings in class, I’ve come to appreciate the complex issues surrounding the concept of a ‘digital dark age’, the problem of digital preservation, and how we communicate those issues to the public.

I particularly appreciated Sarah’s comments about the issues of communication that surround the original NPR article that Bertram Lyons was criticizing in his “There Will Be No Digital Dark Age” article. Originally, I had automatically sided with Lyon’s sentiments, though he may have spoken with slightly more conviction than I would have, but Sarah made a good point in class. The NPR article is not aimed at professionals in the information field. It is aimed at a wider audience who does not know about and does not really understand the work of archivists. This lack of knowledge may be due in part archivists’ lack of advocacy (or at least, their success in advocacy), or maybe the public’s lack of interest. And while it is irksome that journalists are most successful and gaining public attention with incomplete information on the world of digital preservation (especially when our own advocacy is ineffective), they are still doing what archivists often struggle to do: gain public attention. So while the research and information in the NPR article may be lacking, Lyons might be a bit too hasty in his shutdown of the article. Rather than leaving a scathing comment to draw attention to NPR’s blunder, would it not be more constructive to highlight the work going on in the information field? Why not point to the advances and solutions to the problems brought up in the NPR piece to show their listeners that not only is this problem being addressed, it is being addressed by an entire professional field?

That all being said, I remain incredibly skeptical about the BBC article and Vint Cerf’s fears of a digital dark age. Even if he harbors real fears about such an event, and even if he really believes in Digital Vellum, the article reads too much like a sales pitch for me. If one company were to monopolize and profit from the process by which we preserve digital media… there are too many ethics conundrums wrapped up in that scenario for me to feel at all comfortable with it. Also, if Cerf is really concerned about an impending digital dark age, I think his time and money would be better invested in ongoing projects rather than one (as of yet) underdeveloped concept of his own creation.

Since we discussed gifs and memes and their place in digital archiving, I will leave you with my own meme contribution to this week’s discussion:

digital dark age