ASIS&T 2011 plenary session: Preservation: The final frontier



Editor's Summary

Tom Wilson, professor emeritus at the University of Sheffield, explored the perils and challenges of information preservation in a talk at the 2011 Annual Meeting. Wilson described 2011 technology as quaint from a future perspective and retraced the evolution of known document formats from cave painting and papyrus through clay, wood, paper, microfilm, laser discs and today's variety of digital record formats. Not only is the continuing evolution in formats a challenge in itself, but the content of bygone eras may not be comprehensible to those who follow. Decisions about what to preserve come into play, involving judgments at a point in time that may not be the same from a different temporal viewpoint. These issues, together with migration through versions of hardware and software, suggest keeping lots of copies in safe places, leading to impossibly huge amounts of data to store indefinitely. Wilson mused that reverting to paper, following digital librarian Brewster Kahle's lead, might be our best option.