Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Pandora: Archiving and recording the Digital sea

We now live in the age of the digital where often the only copy of a mass or public communication item exists online not in a physical published or even personal handwritten record. The digital can disappear as rapidly as any printed or made object even those acid based paper items. So how do humans keep a record of this intellectual, cultural, creative and historical output? What has been the response of the traditional stakeholders libraries and museums in this archiving and preservation realm? One answer for a while now has been Pandora.

The National Library of Australia began the Pandora archive in the mid 1990s and over time has joined with other national institutes such as the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, Australian War Memorial, National Film and Sound Archive, State libraries and the National Gallery of Australia to add to the archive.

Recently a JCU staff member Kate Galloway has had her law blog Curl added to Pandora. Gilbert Meyns our Cairns campus liaison librarian for the Schools of Law and Business pointed this addition out to me. He explained "Kate blogs on general legal issues of interest to her students and others in the outside community. This is comparable to academics trying to make their work, issues they care about, etc. better known by doing interviews in the media. Here, Kate engages with a broader community audience directly online via social media."

Most people realise things like blogs are the contemporary equivalent of journals, newspapers, editorials and other intellectual manuscripts produced pre-internet and those things are used extensively in research, documentaries and media representations of the past now. We are already seeing records of email, blogs and Facebook being used in legal cases, government investigations and news reporting. Basically Gilbert summed up the importance of archiving the internet as "Pandora  is about capturing a snapshot of Australians in the internet before this information disappears forever. There is a broad range of material captured..." from celebrity tweets to intellectual blogs. Pandora website official statement is "In 1995 the National Library identified the issue of the growing amount of Australian information published in online format only as a matter needing attention. The Library accepted it had responsibility to collect and preserve Australian publications, regardless of format.".

Go and check it out, its the 21st century version of looking through your parents and grandparents collection of newspaper clippings, books, photos and keepsakes.

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