Accessioning (or gathering) Electronic Records may not seem all that exciting to you. But for us at the DCA it is at the very core of our tasks here at Tufts. It's not as easy to gather electronic records as you might think. At least not if you are going to do it right. To help us out we have received a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) to expand our e-records program. For more about TAPER.
Why is it so hard to gather e-records?
In short, it's because we would also like to preserve them and find them again, preferably in the same condition. Many would say that it's easy to save things digitally, especially with the ever decreasing cost of electronic storage. And they would be somewhat right, but mostly wrong.
Sure, you could save as many bits and bytes as you want and continue moving them from server to server. But could you find a specific file? Could you find a file with potentially important information but with a somewhat less informative file name like, "Today's Memo.doc"? And if you did, by chance, find the file, then how would you know if it had the same information on it? How do you know it has not been tampered with in a way the changes the authenticity of the document? With rapid changes in software and hardware, will you be able to look at the photo you took with your phone at your graduation 5, 10, 30 years from now?
These are the kinds of questions we archivists think about and keep us up at night. Luckily, we are trained in describing information (also referred to lovingly as, "The Universe of Knowledge") and making ways to find the information again. It's not easy, but someone has to do it. Because if we didn't try (melodrama alert!) then the cultural heritage of our generation would be lost forever.
So next time you snap a picture with your iphone or decide on a name for your file when you "save as", think of us, the archivists. We're trying our best to save these things and help you find them again.
post by Krista Ferrante
Krista Ferrante is a new archivist at Tufts hired to work on the TAPER project.
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