Thursday, January 12, 2012

Those guys can afford all the cool stuff

I'm at a digital preservation conference this week. It's all about managing your digital files, what are the best ways to store data on a large scale, what are some of the best practices for digital preservation and how to change the mindset of people who think that preservation is 100 years or more. FYI, for digital preservation we are working on 5 year cycles but I won't go into all the whys, wherefores, and whatnots about digital preservation.  Just know that all of us digital archivist/librarians are trying to save history.

I'm not too worried about paper. Paper is a very sturdy medium. I worry about all those things that are put on unstable media. Things like film, audio tape and digital media. Especially, digital. Born digital files are those things that never hit paper, like this blog, or your blog, or that report you just typed, or that e-book, I could go on but you get the drift. These are actually more fragile than paper. Think 2 1/4 floppy disk, chances are you'll never get that stuff back. Stuff being the technical term.

The librarian in me says that digital preservation is cool and needed but what about access? How can we take all those things that are not accessible because they are buried in an archive somewhere? And how am I going to afford everything that is needed to make cool stuff accessible and to preserve it at the same time?

Someone who seems to be doing everything they can to preserve digital media, who seems to be actively making what they can available, and can afford it are the Mormons.

The people at Family Search (i.e. the Mormons) have all the cool shit. They have scanning equipment that I, and I imagine most other labs, will never have. They have a ton of staff. They are thinking ahead. They have business model people, computer scientists, development people, preservation people, digitization people, OMG they have a ton of PEOPLE. Is it any wonder they have all those kids? They need people to fuel their genealogy efforts. And the big thing they have is a huge vault built into the side of a mountain. A Freaking mountain! They even have promotional videos about their Freaking mountain vault. Craziness!!!

So think what you want of their wacky beliefs (the speakers even mentioned that they understand that others think they are crazy. Okay, they didn't use the word crazy but I can read between the lines)  please know that they are preserving and making available genealogy research materials like mad.

I am so jealous!



  1. I totally agree! I have done research on and you are not kidding, the amount of media there is astounding and that most of it is well cross referenced is even more amazing! Believe what you want about their culture but I know I benefited greatly in my research by the efforts they have done. Back in the old days people actually (and probably still do) went to SLC to do ancestry research. Digital makes it accessible to so many more.

  2. The Universities that are libraries of record here and in the UK are having hissy fits about this very issue.
    Ha, they all thought in about '98 that all they had to get over was y2k not an exponential growth in copyright materiel coupled with ever faster change in the method of production and storage.

  3. MTWaggin: Welcome to the site. I was one of those that traveled around to do my genealogy research (though I never made it to SLC)and being able to do it in my jammies has been great.

    Vince: you're right. Academics have been scrambling to get a handle on digital preservation, especially born digital objects.

  4. This is really interesting. I had read a few weeks ago that people are calling the Mormons into question regarding how they "view" their own past, and whether or not they had faked some of their information. If they have one of the largest ancestry research sites, that could be a very scary accusation.

    1. Me, I wouldn't say so. The function the Mormons are filling is that of safety net for data that sits elsewhere. It's something that's been going on since the camera, Gutenberg, or the scriptoria of the 1st millennia. But the thing that keeps the Mormons or anyone else honest is that once a primary source is suspect by those who make such calls they may as well seal the place for all the use will be made of it.

  5. Do you do family research? But I'm sure it's equipment that you would really like to work with.