1. In your view, why is preservation awareness so important?
I think there’s an assumption for many that we know about everything we’ll ever know about the past, both near and distant. Preservation, both incidental and purposeful, is a fundamental part of how our past is discovered anew and rewritten.
2. What are some ways that libraries and archives can reach out to communities about the importance of preservation?
Often, communities will be interested in telling their story – furnishing the evidence and documents needed to recount a narrative – and I think that is vital. However, there may be groups and communities that aren’t confident on their story yet, or fear they need to have a “good” story to tell first. For these groups, I would encourage them to preserve their materials in spite of uncertainty. Someone else may come along to tell your story, and it will be better told with more preserved materials, not less.
3. Digital collections are growing fast, and their formats are prone to obsolescence. What are some current or proposed digital collection initiatives from cultural institutions that give you hope for the future?
One project I’m really excited to see progress is bwFLA (Baden-Württemberg Functional Long-Term Archiving and Access), a project to develop an open framework for emulating software online. This would allow users to access vintage software, and the documents created from them, in their original environments – directly from a browser. Preservation of “look and feel” has arguably been relegated to the most valued of digital objects because of cumbersome logistics, and this project really promises to deliver contextual authenticity to many more users, for many more digital objects.
Walker Sampson is the Digital Archivist at the University of Colorado Boulder Libraries. He earned his MS in Information Science at the University of Texas at Austin before beginning work at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History in 2011.
Find out more about Walker’s book (co-authored with Heather Ryan), The No-nonsense Guide to Born-digital Content here.
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