[Foundation-l] 6 reasons we're in another book-burning, period in history

Robin McCain robin at slmr.com
Sat Oct 15 16:13:22 UTC 2011

On 10/14/2011 9:17 PM, foundation-l-request at lists.wikimedia.org wrote:
> However archiving is rather different from what we are dealing with
> which is more focused on books and other mass market material rather
> than say old planning application maps and minutes of the union of
> postal workers 1937.
Exactly so. Old mass market material tends to be thrown out when it gets 
wet, dusty or is in the way, torn up to line drawers, and otherwise 
casually treated. It is just this sort of treatment that makes a very 
old mass market work valuable - as it may be the only surviving copy of 
a large production run.

In my family they've tended to regard 100 year old school textbooks as 
having high value. But what of a 100 year old newspaper? Unless it was 
of direct concern it is long gone. Newspapers come and go. If that 
newspaper or the local library kept archival copies they will be on 
microfilm by now.

You'd think that a newspaper morgue would still have original 
photographs or negatives of events less than 50 years old - but that is 
rarely the case. Unless something at the time of creation was flagged as 
having special value it might be thrown out within the year. So (for 
example) a photo of Sargent Schriver taken in 1954 when he was a member 
of the Chicago Board of Education might have been published in a local 
newspaper - but the original negative destroyed within a year or two. 
Therefore that newspaper could not republish that same photo several 
years later when he became the first director of the Peace Corps in 
1961, much less in his obituary this year (unless they extracted it from 
the microfilm copy of the published paper).

Going forward, this sort of information will potentially have a longer 
life as digital data storage contains more and more recent history, but 
the gatekeepers and preservationists will control access to much of that 
material. A website I helped create in 1995 was captured by the IA in 
1996 (and many times since), but that first capture has already been 
destroyed due to a backup failure.

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