Two articles about digitization came across my desk this week; you probably saw them too. One argued for a re-prioritization of work so that more funds could be devoted to the preservation of audiovisual materials. The other explored the work of an organization seeking out and scanning old meteorological data that only exists on paper to make the data widely accessible.
So how do we balance them? Do we prioritize the material that is currently considered the most fragile? Do we set priorities solely based on format? If we do set priorities by format, would audiovisual material actually be the first priority? I would bet that some digital formats are more vulnerable than some audio or video formats.
Or do we set priorities based on research demand? The International Environmental Data Rescue Organization and other meteorological research collection efforts make a good case for responding to needs of researchers, but their focus can change more quickly than archives are able to respond to them.
All this has me thinking about the basics of
archives: preserve and provide access to
permanently valuable records and papers.
How do we prioritize one over the other?
We can’t. There is no point in preserving
something if we can’t or won’t make it
available for use. Similarly, we can’t make
it available if it hasn’t been taken care of.
Access and preservation are symbiotic partners
in our work. Just as there are many audiovisual
items at risk of being lost if we don’t take
preservation actions, meteorological records will
be lost we don’t seek them out and make them
available for use.