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 http://www.oraclemsmc.com. 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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