Thursday, November 11, 2010

First draft of history - digital edition

ONE OF THE MOST VALUABLE COLLECTIONS in the Mount Archives is the run of campus newspapers, starting with Inter-Nos in 1927 (typewriter to mimeograph), and running more or less continuously through The View 1945-1992 (ink on newsprint), The New View 1993-1995 (same), The Oracle, 1995-2007 (newsprint, then color photocopied) and now (deep breath) ...

... The Oracle on the internet.

The digital Oracle debuted last week and can be viewed at It's nice looking, full of articles and images, easy to navigate, and entirely virtual. How does a format like that fit into 65 years of print copies in the archives? How do I preserve it?

This lone arranger cannot/should not/will not do digital archiving. (If you want to know why, you'll have to sign up for the 15-week graduate class I teach each semester at San Jose State University.) Suffice it to say, I will probably end up trying to print it out screen by screen.

I pointed my one preservation "tool," Acrobat Distiller, at the Oracle website and ended up with 67 fragmented and duplicative pages. (It could be worse--I did the same with the MSMC online catalog and ended up with over 1,200 before my computer crashed.)

Newspapers are the historian's lifeblood; just this week I had a visiting postdoc in from Rutgers going through all the old newspapers and yearbooks of the Mount. I am honor-bound to capture Mount journalism for the archives. But here's the great conundrum: Even as technology makes it easier and less expensive to publish a campus newspaper, the same technology dooms it to oblivion if left alone.

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