Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Digital frustration

PRESERVATION STUDENTS and others are often surprised to find that we archive mostly on paper, even digital stuff. It's the least expensive, simplest solution for the Mount. It will take a college-wide commitment to the kind of technology infrastructure that can handle formal digital archives, and right now that doesn't exist.

Screen capture of PDF.
The college has a fascinating series of public lectures lined up for this academic year, Women in China. Most of the information about it is strictly what's on the college website. It is possible to create a PDF of a website to a specified number of layers of hyperlinks, so we pointed Acrobat Pro at the URL and watched the screen merrily processing all the bits and bytes. The results (top image) looked pretty good.

Scanned laser print of PDF.
Good, until we printed it out. For reasons known only to our web designers, Adobe (makers of Acrobat) and Hewlett-Packard (makers of our laser printer), many of the letters were replaced with rectangles. (bottom image).

Yes, yes, we know that there are workarounds and that it's possible to include these website PDFs in our growing photo archives online.

The problem is time. For "lone arrangers" like us, the time it takes to normalize, tag, catalog, upload and quality-check a PDF in a repository takes about 10 times longer than hitting the "print" button and placing the results in an acid-free folder. And we don't have to worry about backup, migration, or bit rot with our paper document.

We'll go digital eventually, but for now it's yet another exercise in frustration. At least the email promoting the lectures has been looking fine on paper.



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