The online archives reinforce what some would call the Web’s single best quality: its ability to recall seemingly every statement and smear. And it is even more powerful when the viewer can rewind the video.
The C-Span founder, Brian Lamb, said in an interview here last week that the archives were an extension of the network’s public service commitment.
“That’s where the history will be,” Mr. Lamb said.
Electronically produced drafts, correspondence and editorial comments, sweated over by contemporary poets, novelists and nonfiction authors, are ultimately just a series of digits — 0’s and 1’s — written on floppy disks, CDs and hard drives, all of which degrade much faster than old-fashioned acid-free paper. Even if those storage media do survive, the relentless march of technology can mean that the older equipment and software that can make sense of all those 0’s and 1’s simply don’t exist anymore.
Imagine having a record but no record player.
All of which means that archivists are finding themselves trying to fend off digital extinction at the same time that they are puzzling through questions about what to save, how to save it and how to make that material accessible.
In particular, here’s one place where one might run awry of the DMCA:
Among the challenges facing libraries: hiring computer-savvy archivists to catalog material; acquiring the equipment and expertise to decipher, transfer and gain access to data stored on obsolete technologies like floppy disks; guarding against accidental alterations or deletions of digital files; and figuring out how to organize access in a way that’s useful. [emphasis added]