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December 2000


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"A LISTSERV list for discussions pertaining to New York State history." <[log in to unmask]>
Wayne Miller <[log in to unmask]>
Sat, 23 Dec 2000 09:02:01 -0500
"A LISTSERV list for discussions pertaining to New York State history." <[log in to unmask]>
TEXT/PLAIN (112 lines)
This addresses one aspect of the problem. The other is archiving
information that is transient in nature, i.e. webpages and other 'virtual'
knowledge. While this and other listservs are 'archived' we assume that
the server holding this 'archive' will always be there. A dangerous
assumption that backup taping partially addresses. But what about dynamic
web pages. Realizing we are on the threshhold of a new age, as an
historian I'm concerned that we are not saving artifacts from the
'revolution.'  While paper copies of some web pages may suffice, what
about those with animations, Java scripts and the like?

Wayne Miller

On Mon, 18 Dec 2000, Phil Lord wrote:

> The writer's comment about a waste bin full of unreadable 5" floppies struck a chord. I also have an "archive" of these things, and some of them contain files I wish I could get at.
> But in the mode of "do what I say, not what I do" (for I obviously did not follow my own advice), when one upgrades to a new medium (big floppies to little floppies to CDs), it is essential that we copy over our files each time, at least the ones we think are needed.
> Perhaps, in this escalating pace of technological advance, some of the local history training organizations who run workshops need to focus not so much on how to use the new technologies, but how to save the data stored in the old ones?
> Philip Lord, Jr.
> Director, Division of Museum Services
> New York State Museum
> Albany, NY
> E-mail: [log in to unmask]
> Website: http://www.nysm.nysed.gov/services.html
> >>> [log in to unmask] 12/15/00 10:41PM >>>
> Dear Tom,
> At the risk of driving others off the list by prolonging this discussion, I
> will as I think it of great importance. Just a couple of points I'd like to
> respond to.
> > However, in
> > my trash bin are 5 1/4" floppies. I no longer have a computer that will
> > read them. Yet, five years or so ago, 5 1/4" drives were common.
> Was it that your 5" drives stopped working, or did you upgrade? And your
> operating system? I say this by way of raising the spector of how are we
> archiving the electronic media of today.
> > Lest I be accused of fantasy bordering on lunacy, you might want to look
> > at the prices of original materials on the open market over the last
> > ten, five, and one years vs current prices in such forums as flea
> > markets, antique stores, used book dealers and of course eBay.
> True, but this is not an advantage to archives. Quite the opposite. Not
> only are we ethically and legally constrained under most circumstances from
> liquidating anything in our collections, we now have to compete with my
> sister-in-law who is turning print artifacts that previously might have
> been offerred to an archive into big profits. With a few well-known and
> well-heeled exceptions, most museums, archives, historical collections, and
> special collections have EXTREMELY limited acquisitions budgets. The
> resources we do have are usually insufficient to process the wonderful
> gifts that are forthcoming and upon which we depend.
> > This may come as a shock to some, but not all newspapers are printed on
> > highly acidic material. Most 19th century papers were printed on very
> > nice rag content paper.
> Obviously, papers printed prior to the Civil War, which spurred development
> of the Sulfide Process which allowed wood pulp to replace cotton, is rag in
> origin and, therefore, low acid. You are right. We have some very nice
> papers in our collection reporting on the Battle of Plattsburgh, the last
> naval battle between English speaking peoples and the battle which decided
> that northern NY and New England remained part of the U.S. These papers
> from September, 1814 are in wonderful shape.
> > Then, you might want to take a look at the grants being administered
> > through the Library of Congress (privately funded from private industry)
> > for digitization of important collections.
> Each of the last four years I have submitted a proposal (in partnership
> with  museums, libraries and historical societies in our area) to LC or
> IMLS (the main federal funder) to digitize these papers and other important
> documents relating to this very important, but relatively unknown battle
> (of Plattsburgh). At the stage of the competition where stuff is sent out
> to fellow professionals, our proposals are highly rated. But in the 'money
> round' where a panel sitting in Washington decides who will actually get
> funded, well... We're not one of the big boys, don't have the resources to
> run with the big dogs, and aren't in a position to provide the kind of quid
> pro quo needed to be a serious contender. If it sounds like sour grapes, it
> is. It's also a recognition that I will have to play a better political
> game than I have been.
> The terms of the grants state
> > that recipients can recapture the amount original grant by charging a
> > fee for access or reproduction, so that the process can continue.
> As a librarian, I am committed to avoiding fee for service whenever
> possible. Our heritage is part of our birthright and having to pay for it
> means many will lose their history.
> I apologize for the length and hard edge of my remarks. Those of us who
> work as librarians and archivists aren't in it for the money. And having to
> spend so much of our energy pulling together the funds to do an inadequate
> job is, quite frankly, depressing. I hope your grandmother left part of her
> fortune to an archive.
> Wayne Miller

Wayne L. Miller                         Special Collections Librarian
Feinberg Library                        2 Draper Avenue
518-564-5206                            Plattsburgh, NY 12901
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        "I wonder what will happen today!"  -Maggie Muggins-
"Not even God can change history...which is why he tolerates historians."