How archives get lost

The dutch tv-documentary Digital Memory Loss (Tegenlicht, Digitaal geheugenverlies) handled some interesting topics concerning the loss of libraries and internet data.

To sum things up:

  • Because of budget cuts, the dutch government destroys some of its own libraries. The information in these books (some of which are centuries old) gets lost.
  • The counter argument is that “everything can be found on the internet”.
  • But what will be saved on the internet? Every day petabytes are uploaded in the cloud. What will we keep in the future? What if a server crashes or the cloud goes down?
  • Big parts of the internet (1995 – 2002) are already gone. A lot of sites (like fansites) are already offline. Pages are edited or removed in 2 month spans.
  • Initiatives like try to save the old internet. also tries to have a copy of every book every published.
  • Companies like Google also try to scan every book but keep them behind a paywall. Google can remove that archive any time they want without any consequences.
  • Software updates happen constantly; old software gets lost. Data that can only be read by old software gets lost as well.
  • The readers of old data-carries (large floppies, microfilms) are getting very rare. This means that the data on these carries gets lost as well.
  • Digitalizing doesn’t mean it is saved for the future. Digital archives get outdated as well. Once you start to digitize, you will have to perform constant updates to keep the archive alive.

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