“This is a really good time to be in our field,” said Internet Archive visionary Brewster Kahle at the start of his presentation on Wednesday morning. “It is getting easier to be ‘us’, to be archivists, to preserve and provide access.”
Yes, we are still in America, the land of opportunity. If anyone personifies that in our field, it is Brewster Kahle. His Internet Archive is doing amazing things – digitizing millions of books, harvesting millions of websites. The Archive now also holds about a million sound recordings from cultural communities that lack the infrastructure to preserve them. Internet Archive keeps them “forever, for nothing”. Why? Because Kahle’s mission is to build a “Library of Everything” that is freely available to all.
Universal access to all knowledge … can be one of our greatest achievements.” Brewster Kahle
The Internet Archive has also started recording 20 television channels 24/7. Have a look at their “Understanding 9/11” website. From all over the world, from all angles, the events of 9/11 are available there. An amazing historical record.
Kahle is convinced that the technological possibilities are getting better all the time. “We now have the funding and the technology to make [our mission] come true.” “The entire Library of Congress holds 28 million books, if we estimate each book at a Gigabyte of data, the entire collection is about 28 Terabyte of data.” That is manageable.
Access is the key to everything Kahle does. “When you know how you want to provide access to whom, that influences everything up the line: selection, file formats, preservation,” Kahle said. The Internet Archive has started reformatting (libraries would say: migrating) the millions of books it owns to adapt them to new devices such as the e-reader and the iPad. Kahle says that the Internet Archive “is also getting pretty good at running emulators which enable games to keep running.” “Okay,” says Kahle, “there are some challenges and we must refine our preservation techniques, but it is all very doable.”
Kahle says that “we” (and I assume he means all archives and libraries) should become “bolder” at providing access and not let all sorts of copyright stipulations prevent us from doing our work. The Internet Archive registered as a “library” in California to be able to “lend” material to users. Quite a nice work-around!
At this conference also some criticize the Internet Archive for not really preserving all the material the right way, for not providing all the metadata that really should be included. Brewster’s method is a quick-and-dirty one. Perhaps his approach is not suitable for all content, but his results are impressive.
“Do first, solve problems later,” is his mantra. His next project? Getting involved in preserving & providing access to personal digital archives. And that is certainly a category of digital objects that is crying out for somebody to start preserving it.
(More posts to follow … ; I need time to catch up on everything that happened. The program was jam-packed. We did not even get coffee or bathroom breaks …)
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