Shining a Light on the Digital Dark Ages

Meg Miner, Illinois Wesleyan University

Text for slides available in the native pdf and in word format on request.


“What is digital preservation?” “Why should I worry? Storage options are cheap and everywhere!”This is the spirit of the responses digital preservationists typically hear if not the actual words. Following a year of interviews and investigations, I can attest that our community shares these beliefs. Personal and institutional practices of collecting digital objects often indicate that people are unaware of the fragility of digital media and unconcerned about longevity of access.IWU is one of five participating institutions researching digital preservation options for small- to medium-sized college and university libraries. Our involvement as part of a two-year National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) includes researching our current data storage practices, understanding creators’ plans for their data, and evaluating systems and tools available to accommodate them. We will report our findings to the IMLS in May 2014, but our work on this topic will never truly end.In an age of cloud computing, making a case that we all have a responsibility for digital curation seems alarmist and heretical. We are culturally inclined to seek faster and more efficient solutions for our work, and the many potential pitfalls to transferring that knowledge into the future rarely reach a level of consciousness let alone urgency. Individual knowledge creators need to take action today or it will be impossible for cultural curators to make sure their efforts are not lost in a Digital Dark Age.