On the readings

NINCH on analog records:

However, as noted above, projects like those at the University of Michigan, Cornell, or the Library of Congress, which discard the analog originals following digitization, must treat the digital version as a preservation surrogate.

Maybe I am misreading the above paragraph, but what does the author mean when he says “discard the analog originals”? Surely, after a portion of George Washington’s letters were digitized by LC they were not discarded! And surely after some rare books were digitized by LC they were not discarded? http://www.loc.gov/rr/rarebook/ So am I misreading the author?

NINCH on microfilm readers:

A fourth and more complex issue is the question of user needs and preferences, which may cause certain formats to become effectively obsolete even while they remain technically functional. For instance, user discontent with microform readers threatens to make microfilm obsolete even though it still fulfills the original goals of its creation. User acceptance—and its decline—will be one of the key “trigger events” that will compel migrations to new delivery versions of digital collections.

I will tell you that microfilm is not the easiest or best way to view something, but microfilm has stood the test of time as has paper. It doesn’t fade or deteriorate if kept in proper conditions. If you’ve ever gone to the National Archives to do research you will see where all of their census records and many of their old military records are on microfilm and their reader room always has researchers. Granted that if all of the records ever become digitized people will flock to the digitized format, but until that day they will depend on microfilm. And once the microfilm is no longer needed they will still preserve it as an analog record because, as we’ve seen, things can happen to digitized records..

NINCH on migration:

Choice of medium is equally important. Formats change rapidly and obsolescence is a perennial problem; it may be very difficult in the future to find a drive that can read ZIP disks, just as now it may be difficult to find readers for certain kinds of magnetic tapes. No one format can be guaranteed to persist and remain accessible in years to come, so you need to anticipate continuing developments and new products. Among currently available media, DVD, DLT (Digital Linear Tape) tape and CD-ROM are the most popular. Tape has a tried and tested longevity, while DVD and CD-ROM are newer media and current research has not yet agreed on their likely lifespan. Best practice in preservation is to migrate data from one medium to another, for example, from optical disc to tape, while the hardware and software are still available. Migration is an integral part of any digital project and should be set out in your preservation policy.

Roy Rosenzweig on migration:

But this “system” will not work in the digital era because preservation cannot begin twenty-five years after the fact. What might happen, for example, to the records of a writer active in the 1980s who dies in 2003 after a long illness? Her heirs will find a pile of unreadable 5 1/4″ floppy disks with copies of letters and poems written in WordStar for the CP/M operating system or one of the more than fifty now-forgotten word-processing programs used in the late 1980s.23

“Obsolescence”–tell me about it. I can’t tell you how many times as archivist on the listserv will ask if anyone knows where they can find a 5-1/4 inch drive (I have a computer that never had a 3-1/2″ drive), or a reel-to-reel recorder, or someplace that has something that they can play a wax cylinder on, and so on. That is a problem with archivists because some of the collections that are donated have really old materials in them.

However, one problem with the migration of digitized records is that it costs money. And every time they have to be migrated to a new format it will cost more money. Paper records do not have to be migrated and thus are more cost efficient. For many smaller archives with very low budgets this is a big consideration.

Cohen on metadata:

One of the most important factors in ensuring digital preservation is the creation of robust metadata to describe the process of digitization as well as the actual digital objects themselves. We need to preserve not just the byte stream, but also the structure of the digital object and its context.

Metadata is so very important. I think of all of the analog photographs I’ve worked with in archives that have lost any information about them. But even analog photos inherently have some metadata: what size they are, whether they are black and white or color, what the photo is about (scenic, portrait, etc.). Even my father’s photos that have very little subject data, I can put a little subject data and some metadata to them: How many people are in the photo, is my father one of them? Where was the photo taken? Is the photo black and white or color, what is the size of the original photo (8×10, 5×7, etc.), what is the dpi of the scanned image, is it scanned in color or greyscale, and so on. But metadata is critical.


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