filizefe's blog

Reading Reflection (week 8)

Posted in Uncategorized by filizefe on February 20, 2009

Preserving For the Future

The advent of electronic communication systems introduced new preservation requirements. In her article “Archivists Struggle to Preserve Crucial Records as Paper Gives Way to Pixels” Florence Olsen mentions about the university archivists’ quandary over electronic record preserving systems. According to the university archivists, the raw material of future scholarship and litigation is being deleted. They liken the present situation to a transition between cultures by tearing down the old one without even thinking how to preserve the new one. They point out the requirement of digital preserving systems for the new form of data. University archivists also concern about what to keep for the future among all records. Moreover overwriting is another common problem, where the online authors’ first priority is updating the data without thinking to keep the previous one such as online grade-sheets.

I believe there are two main questions to be considered in preserving the exponentially increasing data:

1-      How will we use records in the future?

2-      What records do we need to share and store?

First problem comes with the challenge of the fast obsolescence of archive technologies: How will we use records in the future?  It’s almost impossible to make long term predictions where we are confronted with new technologies every other day. Even in the last two decades, the preserving technologies have changed from floppy disk to recordable CDs, flash drives and external hard disks. The data capacity of these storage systems have changed from 360 kilobyte to 2 terabyte.

Second problem is not a new one: What records do we need to share and store? Although this problem is not a new one, there is a significant increase in communication devices and frequency. Comparing the memos and fax communication with e-mails will simply show that it is not possible to create incoming and outgoing folders anymore by printing the e-mails. Decision of what to preserve for the future would be the challenging one. That would solve the bigger part of the problem because the dramatic increase of data also creates a junk of information, which keeping for future would not make sense anyhow.

In sum, the emergence of various communication ways and devices bring forward the problem of exponential increase in data to be preserved. Digital archiving systems and prioritization of the archive materials urgently required. University archivists are the first ones those who needs a fundamental solution. The digital storage technologies are changing incredibly fast but choosing the right material to keep for the future would be the most important strategic act to solve the preserving problem for the future.


Olsen, F. (October, 1999). Archivists Struggle to Preserve Crucial Records as Paper Gives Way to Pixels. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved February 19, 2009, from


2 Responses

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  1. mgm5 said, on February 20, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    I interviewed the UW archivist two years ago and he told me that the UW continues to archive lots and lots of paper. It’s a huge problem that still does not have very good solutions. Good post.

  2. […] Filiz – Preserving For The Future […]

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