We–archivists, librarians, and the like–talk a lot about “digitization in archives and special collections” without really exploring the depth of that idea. This article does just that: “The point is: this project changes our relationship with time. When we weave history into the web, we weave the past into the present. And that is awesome and important. The archive takes on a life in our own, just as Lee hopes the Cage archives will. ”
Weaving history into the fabric of our lives–this is what we aim to do. “Digital”, like “horseless” as the author points out, seems redundant now. Of course we live in a digital age. What else is there? But automobiles didn’t stop at the hand-crank models–the industry innovated. So likewise, the digital realm we occupy is constantly changing, innovating, pushing boundaries. As the technology advances, so do our expectations. Digitization can no longer simply mean “scanning” our collections to save people the time and trouble of visiting our facilities, or as some trendy new way to advertise ourselves. “Can’t you just put it all online?” Or worse, “Isn’t it all online already?” are questions we hear too often. Time, money, resources, expertise–not many of our institutions have what the British Library, NYPL, or Yale have at their disposal. What we all do have is a love of history and an understanding that our history, our collective cultural memory, must be woven into our present, just as “digital” is. And what better way to take our collections into people’s lives than on the devices they can’t live without?
Recently I posted about Cyrus Forwood, Delaware soldier in the Civil War, and his social media presence. Not only are his digitized letters, posted to correspond with the days he wrote them, essentially “live-blogging” the Civil War as he experienced it, but his twitter feed and facebook news feed keep his friends and fans up to date at the same time as their other, shall we say, more alive friends. This readers, is digitization now. It is easier than ever to show how inseparable our past is from our present. Past is prologue, as someone once said.