The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #134506   Message #3060859
Posted By: JohnInKansas
24-Dec-10 - 05:26 PM
Thread Name: Digitisation Nightmare
Subject: RE: Digitisation Nightmare
Many of the things that we'd like to preserve can't readily be digitized, so we can only save a picture of a great monument or of most "works of art" digitally.

One of the methods of saving something is by replication - making an exact (as nearly as possible) copy that's in "newer condition" than the original. While it's always(?) a good idea to have the original, many museums now keep the originals sequestered in warehouses while the displayed items are actually (we hope accurate) copies. In some cases the original is simply too fragile - or too valuable - to be exhibited, but often it's because the original isn't in good enough shape to "show well." Often the "original" now provides less knowledge than the copy made at "first acquisition," since having something in possession doesn't necessarily stop its deterioration.

Making an "in kind" copy of artifacts is an extremely time consuming process, and in most cases requires the skills of artisans who are rare. A "restoration" is little other than a "copy of what's missing," and is so frequently done that there's little reason to argue with "replication" as a means of preservating at least the understanding (perhaps call it the "presence"?) of the original.

What we can digitize are the visual representations (pictures) of the "object," and the documentation of the plans and methods used in the creation, along with details of the participants who helped.

To the extent that the digital copy is adequate to be worth making, additional digital copies of the original digitization can be identical and indestinguishable from the first one. One of the best ways to have hope that some will survive is to have many.

An essential part of assuring that the replicas of an original will be preserved is assuring that the methods used to make them are recorded and are preserved.

The successful preservation (and where necessary restoration) of pen and ink artifacts requires a fairly detailed knowledge of the paper, inks, and instruments used, in addition to the language and customs (for interpreting colloquialisms) of the original writers.

There should be no problem with reading obsolete digital records if we know the "languages" in which they were recorded - and if someone thinks it's worthwhile to replicate the obsolete methods. And a proper archiving of a few copies of the "master" digital record should permit filling in the gaps even if a few bits do get obliterated.

Unfortunately lots of the "digital methods" used in the past have been deemed too "proprietary" to have been recorded where anyone but the (now dead) original users could know and preserve the details. That weakness appears likely to continue to be propogated to future archivists, but it's really not much different in kind than the "secrets of Leonardo" or of the secret sects (if such existed?) of the writers of the dead sea scrolls.

Changing the methods doesn't change the fallibility of the poeple who use them - apparently.