Post from Jean Thilmany:
We have a new son and, like all new parents, we’re busy snapping photos. Unlike our first time around as parents—six years ago—when we used a digital camera, we’re taking pictures with our smart phone, which is well capable of taking high-resolution photos. We continue to download them to our computer’s photo-storage application… and we rarely print them.
Ever since Alvin was born six years ago, I’ve been thinking a lot about digital archives. Technology speeds along at a breakneck pace and I fear, much like vinyl records and rotary telephones, and even stand-alone answering machines that record messages with small cassette tapes, the photos of him as a child will be lost forever as the technology inevitably become outdated. After all, my mother never gets around to moving the slides of our youth to digital prints. She has yet to transfer the 8-milimeter movies of her own childhood to video, and then to DVD, and inevitably to digital files.
Archiving digital materials isn’t necessarily a hot topic among engineers, but it should be. Legacy information and original drawings are being lost as enterprise software is updated beyond the package used to create the original drawings. The issue, right now, is mainly of concern to archivists and librarians but should be of interest to everyone, including executives and engineers.
In an opinion piece written 13 years ago for UNESCO co-authored by Marie-Therese Varlamoff and Sara Gould summarizes the issues neatly. It seems that not much has changed—except for the explosion of information available via the Internet—in the ensuing years.
That’s why we need a comprehensive body looking at the issue of archiving digitally created documents or we risk losing the knowledge accumulated and disseminated over the past 15 years.