Yesterday I came across Mike Ashenfelder’s keynote speech from Personal Digital Archiving 2012. It’s quite a good talk, and I’ll be using a quote from it in Files that Last. The quote is actually from Martha Anderson at the Library of Congress: “We want every person in America to understand digital preservation issues and be able to do something about it.” Still, it misses a certain point. It assumes that wisdom about preservation will emanate from the libraries to the general public.
What this view overlooks is that something in between the rarefied atmosphere of the libraries and the actions of the end user is needed. Any technology requires a base of people who understand it in detail and implement it. These include system managers, software authors, and policy makers. Businesses, schools, governments, and nonprofits need to have digital preservation strategies, and these need to be guided by people within the group who understand not just the end-user basics but the evaluation of media, the uses of metadata, the choice of formats, and similar details. In fact, there are people who understand many of these points; it’s just a matter of putting it all together as a discipline. These are the people I call the “preservation geeks.” This is the audience which FTL addresses.
Is it frightening to library people to let what they’ve started go out into the wild? Of course. Is it necessary? Yes. There are many perspectives on preservation, and they’ll sometimes come into conflict. The arguments over PDF/A-3, which lets arbitrary content be embedded in PDF files intended for preservation, is largely an argument between library and business people. There will be other arguments, reflecting divergent needs and interests. That’s how knowledge grows.
Files that Last will just make a start at encouraging preservation geeks. Other, bigger influences will come from other sources. What’s important is to get out the understanding of preservation issues. Your support helps that to happen.
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