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<nettime> Saving U.S. Digital History
Krystian Woznicki on Sat, 15 Feb 2003 16:49:16 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Saving U.S. Digital History


its been talked about for some time now: how to preserve and archive the
net, respectively digital culture in general. Here an article on a plan
from the US.

Best wishes,


- www.berlinergazette.de
- www.911.bemagazin.de

Plan Approved To Save U.S. Digital History

Nicholas Johnston, Washington Post, February 15, 2003

Here's the flip side of the digital age's magic act: It's also making
information disappear.

"The digital history of this nation is imperiled by the very technology
that is used to create it," said Librarian of Congress James H.

So yesterday the Library of Congress announced the next step in the effort
to preserve that history: congressional approval of its plan for the
National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program
(NDIIPP). The $100 million initiative was launched by Congress in 2000 to
do for digital media what the world's largest library already does for
printed matter.

"This plan is the beginning of the creation of a national network to
preserve the digital memory of our country," said Laura Campbell,
associate librarian for strategic initiatives.

It faces a daunting task. The popular Internet search engine Google claims
access to just over 3 billion Web pages, a massive collection of
information in a constant state of change.

In fact, according to data from the Library of Congress, the average Web
page has a lifespan of just a couple of months. Of all the Web content
made in 1998, nearly half had disappeared by 1999.

"Much of what has been created is no longer accessible," Billington said.
"And much of what disappears is important, one-of-a-kind material that can
never be recovered, but will be desperately looked for."

The task of preserving the Internet and other digital information has
already been undertaken by some private and nonprofit firms, such as the
Internet Archive, which has been saving old Web pages since 1996 and has
preserved Web sites from the 2000 presidential campaign. Working with the
Library of Congress, the archive also saved online information related to
the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

And the library itself, beginning with the 107th Congress, started saving
congressional Web pages. It already runs an online collection of 8 million
U.S. historical artifacts such as presidential diaries and baseball cards.

On top of the $5 million the library received for planning the initiative
in 2000, the plan approved yesterday releases another $20 million of
funding to develop a system for evaluating and storing digital
information. Just as the library receives more than 20,000 printed pieces
each day but keeps less than half, it now faces the herculean task of
deciding what digital information should be saved for future generations.

Congress will also match up to $75 million of private fundraising done by
the library for the program. The matching funds were part of the original
$100 million appropriation in 2000.

Now, with congressional approval of the plan, the library continues work
with federal, university and corporate partners to develop the
infrastructure needed to carry out data preservation, to build a network
to manage the data, and to assemble people and set guidelines to help
choose which data to save.

It's a first step toward a complete program run by the library to
catalogue and preserve the country's digital information, a process
expected to take up to five years.

"We are in danger of losing history itself," Billington said. "If we don't
save it, chances are nobody else will either."


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