History preservation in digital age

NYT has an article ‘History Digitized (and abrdged)’ discussing what will happen to history in digital age.

“There’s an illusion being created that all the world’s knowledge is on the Web, but we haven’t begun to glimpse what is out there in local archives and libraries,” said Edward L. Ayers, a historian and dean of the college and graduate school of arts and sciences at the University of Virginia. “Material that is not digitized risks being neglected as it would not have been in the past, virtually lost to the great majority of potential users.”

Digitization of books and other material has made them accessible using search engines and that means that things that are on-line are things that will be accessible.  Not surprising that

But the reality remains that a new generation of researchers prefers to seek information online, a trend made all too clear to Mr. Hastings of the National Archives last year, after Google, in an experiment of sorts, digitized 101 of the National Archives’ films — including World War II newsreels and NASA footage — and put them up on its site, at video.google.com/nara.html.

This trend is resulting in leaving much of the history behind for next generations.  What is not accessible is usually lost and access always depends on what tools are available.  A solution to this problem may be in developing novel approaches to use sensors (particularly cameras) that can be used directly to access the real world.  This will help not only in accessing things that are preserved but providing much more flexible access than a photo or digitized version would.  As usual, this will also require some research and costly efforts.  But this may be the only way to preserve history.

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