Should Archivist Be Concerned About Electronic Storage?

February 23, 2009 at 8:25 pm 1 comment

Olsen, F. (1999). The Chronicle: Archivist Struggle to Preserve Crucial Records as Papers Gives Way t Pixels. Retrieved February 23, 2009 from http://chronicle.com/free/99/10/99101501t.htm

The work of an archivist is very important; they have to select what records they must keep in order to justify the high costs of storage and more importantly the preservation of the records. They collect valuable memories of the past in order to leave a trace of our information and our past. In this article the author shows the concerns that many archivists had back in 1999 in regards to the digitalization of important information that they have been able to keep alive without using electronic devises. However, as technology has evolved the concern of what types of electronic documents they should try to save and what they can safely discard has vanished. Current technology has allowed the scarcity of space (storage) to disappear. Now this information can safely be saved and preserved electronically with a very low cost. If technology has eliminated the barrier of space and preservation cost, then archivists should not be worried about what they save as they can now have a copy of every generated record.

A former university archivist mentioned in the article that the loss of electronic data could be compared to the destruction of historic buildings. It is true that even though this information is in the computing cloud, this electronic information needs to be stored somewhere. If something catastrophic may occur where this information is kept, then this can be compared to the destruction of historic buildings. However, in the case of electronic data, there is a backup system that has a copy of all these records, therefore in order for this information to be destroyed completely; two catastrophes need to occur, the destruction of the electronic data and the destruction of the backup system.

In Arizona back in 1996, a State’s decision past to stop printing policy manuals and publish them only on the web, but a year later the institution had to take a step back and continue printing the policy manuals to comply with Arizona’s public-records law at that time. In this case technology suffered a step back as the Arizona’s law suppressed its development. Technology always has to overcome suppressors and usually these suppressors arise from political or social disputes that are always questioning the power and reliability of new technology. In this case, technology has showed that if it is allowed to take its natural course of development, innovations are created faster and these innovations allow technology to be trusted at the end.

In summary, there is no serious threat for the information to be electronically preserved, even if a catastrophic accident should occur there is a backup system in place that preserves a copy of this information. Using storage places to preserve the information is expensive and has a greater risk because this classic preservation technique does not count with a backup system, in other words, there are not copies of the originals in another storage location. Therefore, archivist can trust that electronic storage methods are safe, reliable and inexpensive.

Entry filed under: Reflection. Tags: , .

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