Losing our digital memories

In We’re in danger of losing our memories, Lynne Brindley (chief executive of the British Library) talks about the challenges of collecting and archiving our digital culture and history. I’m thrilled that her essay caught the attention of the Chronicle of Higher Education, and that it is generating some discussion among scholars. As Brindley notes, the task of capturing and preserving the ever growing mass of inherently ephemeral website content is huge and complex. It is a challenge that needs the attention of as many interested parties as possible.

I just wish Brindley had not used this as her lead example of the problem:

At the exact moment Barack Obama was inaugurated, all traces of President Bush vanished from the White House Web site, replaced by images of and speeches by his successor. Attached to the Web site had been a booklet entitled 100 Things Americans May Not Know About the Bush Administration—they may never know them now. When the Web site changed, the link was broken and the booklet became unavailable.

The problem with that example is that a simple Google search yields a direct working link to the PDF as the first hit.

For another take on the challenge of preserving digital government information, with an emphasis on preserving information not websites, see Won’t Get Fooled Again: Day 6.

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