In this week’s readings, we were introduced to the world of digitization – a world still without a compass for navigation the digital realm, but one which archivists and other cultural institutions are bravely taking on.
The historian Roy Rosenzweig, founder of the Center for New Media at George Mason University, wrote an article that described the pitfalls of the digital era. How will historians craft their histories when there is even more information and documents to choose from? This “culture of abundance” makes it more challenging to construct histories, especially when future historians will work with digital documents that are even less stable than their paper counterparts. Rosenzweig published this article in 2003, and today’s world is vastly different just twelve years later. We now have Google Drive and various cloud services, the iPhone, among other innovations. But many of these questions and problems still remain.
It’s especially difficult when you’re working even just to digitize paper documents, let alone worrying about born-digital files. Digitization efforts cost institutions quite a bit of money, and institutions are already strapped for cash. I found it interesting that Rosenzweig made a call for historians to also concern themselves with the preservation of digital material. I’m not sure under which model this would happen, seeing as graduate programs are already under such financial and staffing constraints.
Even so, Rosenzweig makes a major point. Historians are substantial archival users, and they should also concern themselves with these materials as the profession moves further into the digital era. Archivists, however, will play a major role in assessing the value of this information in order to weed out information that will undoubtedly take up too much space. I’d be interested to see if any collaborations transpire between historians and archivists as the trajectory of the history profession moves towards the digital course.