History 511 – Digital History

Howard Besser in his work “The Past, Present, and Future of Digital Libraries” illustrates how digital history has reached a turning point in the debate over Digital Libraries. Organizations have arrived at a point where decisions must be made to convert old libraries into new formats, and to develop a technology that will stand up to persistent changes in technology. In addition, Besser addresses the issue of Longevity metadata and how it will survive and keep data over long periods of time. This is an issue that has not been discussed in great detail. Especially since Digital works are fragile. Once data has been lost or damaged it is not as part of a book or a painting has been damaged. In those cases one still has or can save part of the original or possible restore. However, once data is lost, it’s lost is total.

Hence, Besser suggests some very pragmatic steps for preserving metadata for digital corks using other forms of data software. This remains a valid proposal for preserving and answer the question of interoperability with both older and newer forms of Digital history. Standards need to be developed so that older data can be preserved and the latest techniques can also be observed.

Besser also describes the problem of maintaining the data collection so that users may use the information and to confront problems associated with licensing of data packages. The use of authentication of a user name and password allow users to ensure they observe the licence agreements. This is the bridge that must be built to ensure that libraries uphold ethical traditions of equal access and diversity of information that is threatened by the commercialization of intellectual property. As Beeser describes data must be able to be interoperable and available to the public. However, Digital library developers who have used the once free information and placed it in a digital form feel they have a right to restrict access. This is something that needs to be addressed to ensure access of information remains in the public domain.

I am not sure what the answers may be. I can see that a turning point has been reached where Digital library developers need to find ways to keep what they already have digitized accessible. At the same time, that data must be interoperable with new and future digital sets. It is a challenge that will be addressed as new ways are developed to digitize information.

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