Digital Archives

In my academic work I focus on a range of topics, but, in general, the historical period that interests me the most is the end of the 19th century and the first few decades of the 20th. I often find myself in archives, reading letters and diaries of historical figures who are significant to whatever research project I am working on at the time. This process of discovery through the day-to-day writings of my research subjects is, perhaps, one of my favourite things about doing academic work. These brittle and stained pages contain so much information and tell stories in a way that official history textbooks can not.

I wonder what will become of our day-to-day archives. It is rare that I sit down and compose a letter on paper (with a pen!) these days. Correspondence happens by email or by IM. Sure, we can save copies of emails in folders, but what happens when the current software and operating systems we use become obsolete? How many personal stories will be lost from our generation? What kind of archive will we leave for those curious about the world in the early decades of the 21st century?

2 thoughts on “Digital Archives

  1. I wonder how digital texts will hold up over the long term. As formats change, links break, and embedded images and videos vanish, will we end up with digital equivalents of the Gilgamesh tablets, full of gaps and difficult to read? Will digital texts go feral?

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