Simpson Garfinkel is Slaying the Paper Dragon. (I’m not sure if the article is available to non-subscribers of Technology Review, but go check.) He’s discovered what every digital archivist finds out sooner or later: it’s not the scanning that’ll kill you, but the metadata and maintenance:
But if you start creating your own digital archive, youll discover that digitizing information and entering keywords for Internet search engines is only half the task. You also have to organize digital files so that you can find what youve archived years from now. This complicated job requires, in addition to making backups, a taxonomy that allows you to enlarge and extend your database over decades. Yet another problem, for those making information public, is securing permission from copyright holders to put the data online. You can buy specialty software that fulfills many of these tasks. Unfortunately, these programs store data in proprietary formats. Since I hope to keep my data for 40 or 50 years, that constraint is bound to create hassles down the road: who knows what formats will be supported by systems then in use?
To some small degree, everyone is their own archivist– just as everyone is their own IT admin, financial planner, cook, chauffer, etc.– so it’s worth learning these lessons early.
And there are no magic bullets to the issues Simpson’s essay raises; we’re all just hoping not to cause too many problems for ourselves in the future.
Note: I’m working on a couple longer, more involved posts, as well as my day job, hence the “quote + brief commentary” entries of the last day. More substantive stuff to come.