E-mail and Potential Loss to Future Archives and Scholarship or The Dog that Didn't Bark
Lukesh, Susan (1999) E-mail and Potential Loss to Future Archives and Scholarship or The Dog that Didn't Bark. FirstMonday, 4 (9).
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This paper explores the preservation of electronic correspondence - a small subset of the large and varied area of the preservation of electronic documents. Discussions of preservation in the literature today and briefly reviewed below focus on electronic publications, Web sites and even listservs - all more easily seen as 'public' areas and, we hope, someday susceptible to broad preservation efforts. Personal correspondence among scholars, scientists, and others, unless deliberately retained in one form or another, does not seem to be part of any preservation plan and its preservation receives little attention in the literature. These resources are too often on individual computers or on computers at a scholar's home institution. The premise of this paper is that if electronic correspondence, personal e-mail, is not retained, there will be significant loss to future understanding of the work of today's scholars', to historians' work in general and to our collective memory. "The ability of a culture to survive into the future depends on the richness and acuity of its members' sense of history" Preserving Digital Information, Introduction) The problem is not only a subset of the problem of digital preservation in general but also a subset of technology's future impact on scholarly research methods. Unfortunately, the subject seems not to have risen to a level of importance for historians, biographers,librarians and archivists.
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