----- Original Message -----
From: "Terry Smythe" <[log in to unmask]>
> On 13 Jun 2007 at 14:43, Karl Miller wrote:
> > I have had the opportunity to work with Tom
> While I am somewhat selfish in my disappointment with his
> position on digitization of original literature, I am
> nonetheless grateful that he and others like him do make it
> their passion to acquire and protect important collections.
> Possibly at some unknown time in the future as technology
> improves, labor requirement shrinks, attitudes change, et al,
> that such collections may gradually become digitized. Likely
> not in my lifetime, but generations to come will be the
> > Turner was a collector who believed that the value of a
> > collection was measured by its uniqueness. Someone once quoted
> > him as saying, "if I am going to pay $X for something, making
> > a photocopy of it is like throwing the money away."
> I too am a collector, but my perception is that in acquiring a
> rare document, I have saved it from destruction and have an
> obligation to share with the world and future generations. Why
> should I be the only one to view and enjoy such documents?
> I am also very much aware that many collectors do not share my
> viewpoint, preferring to covet rather than share. That is
> their prerogative which I will not dispute. Hopefully, their
> heirs will one day feel differently.
> > Finally, after several years of pushing by scholars and the
> > staff, the rules were changed and photocopies are now allowed
> The electronic process of making a photocopy is no different
> than the electronic process of digitization. The former
> allows for only a single copy, while digitization allows for
> multiple sharing. The labor involved is about the same.
> > As for not digitizing being an impediment to scholarship
> > and research...it is, for me, nothing when compared to the
> > limits imposed by the copyrights.
> Agreed. In our view, we are very much aware that the vast
> majority of original literature in which we researchers focus on
> is long since out of copyright protection. A huge blessing,
> dramatically easing the process.
> > I believe that in spite of the massive problems with the
> > preservation of digital information, a good arguement can be
> > made in support of that notion.
> Agreed. There is no question that original literature can be
> reasonaly assumed to have a life of about a century, while
> digital data has a dramatically shorter life not only on the
> original media, but also in the technology of that media. I
> have noted significant grants being awarded to research digital
> preservation. Until resolved, the principle of LOCLLITW
> (Lots of Copies Like Leaves In The Wind) applies.
> > Some are doing a good job. I can only add that because of
> > the actions of our current director, the entire collection of
> > the papers of Horace Grenell are now sitting in a bunch of
> > boxes in his son's basement.
> So also Eubie Blake's archives sitting in carboard boxes
> somewhere in a City of Baltimore warehouse.
1) Any assumptions about "lives of (presumably paper) documents"
are often NOT true! I have a small stack of newspapers from the
1890-1900 era...which have NEVER been stored under "ideal" conditions.
Yet, all of them are intact and readable (although they require more
careful handling than "today's paper"...!) In all probability,
practical proof of "Waller's Law"..."One never knows...do one?!"
2) Actually, the biggest problem would be the possibility of
unpredictable and totally unexpected disasters! Here in Oshawa,
Ont'o, there are many years for which no newspaper archives exist.
Why? The local newspaper burned to the ground, including most of
its preserved archives, several decades ago. And...one wonders
exactly how much of historic value fell victim to Katrina...?!
3) The harsh reality is that some "archivists" and "collectors" are
NOT interested in advancing the total of historic knowledge...but
are more interested in the perceived status that comes with "Nyah-
nyah-na-na-nyah-nyah...I got one and YOU DON'T!" In my own field...
vintage 78rpm recordings...I have heard of collectors who point-blank
refuse to share their rare, sometimes unique, recordings with anyone
else. In fact, they are totally DISinterested in the concept of their
rarity being an important item in the history of sound recording, or
an important item with respect to the history of a given artist or
musical genre. Tis sad...but true...
4) As noted, there is...has to be...the consideration of the inherent
"shelf life" of a digitized version stored on a given medium. Consider
that given things like "acid rain," even "carved in stone" no longer
actually implies (or ought to...?!) permanence...as many people trying
to acquire data from old tombstones can and will attest!
5) One final consideration: in the case of paper documents, do/should
we store IMAGES (digital) of the actual documents...digital versions of
the text contained in/on said documents...or both? Note that the latter
can be easily searched...
Steven C. Barr