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Re: Bridges to the past; links to the future

You Said it Dorothy, but for the present, the prioritised copying of
material over to new formats means that some material of the lowest
priority will be hopelessly out dated before we get around to copying it,
thus ending up unusable. And who knows, the low priority piece today might
be of the utmost priority in 180 years time. Our assessing of importance
is balanced on what we know and think in the present. We can only
estimate what might be important in the future, we can't be sure, and we
will probably be wrong. Because of this, all material should have equal
importance and resource to cover its continued longevity (I can dream
can't I?). Sadly archives don't get that kind of consideration so we must
think of using the most long living format possible, to reduce the costs
of data transfer between formats. Unfortunately every m aterial has its
problems. Clay tablets can be dropped, paper can burn,
floppy disks can... Well....enough already.


On Mon, 12 May 1997, Dorothy Africa wrote:

>  It has occurred to me, Jack, in reading your postings on this thread,
> as well as those of others, that there is also an important change
> underway in who saves, as well as how we save, information.  In the old
> days an individual might put something in an attic, and successive
> generations might then decide to save great-gramma's diary, or whatever,
> say once each thirty years.  In six generations said diary passes to an
> institutional library as an historic document which keeps it, so seven
> "save" decisions in 180 years, six of them with personal connections to
> the document and its content.
>  Now, the original, as it turns out, becomes embrittled, or damaged, and
> the institution (no longer as committed to the item as a physical
> object), digitally scans it and discards the original.  Let's say the
> digital version must be recopied every 10 years.  Due to the volume of
> recorded information, the institution must make catagory decisions about
> recopying material on the basis of brief descriptions of the contents of
> each disc, or whatever.  In the next 180 years, saving the diary will
> require 18 separate decisions as to its value on the basis of that brief
> catalog description, and in light of the institution's priorities.
>   Of course, the reality is that the technology will probably change and
> it will no longer be necessary to copy so often because a machine will
> be able to make a copy on some sort of durable material (perhaps a clay
> tablet?), but my point is that for the near future people will be
> deciding what to save in a much different set of circumstances......
>   Dorothy Africa

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