Friday, June 16, 2006

lots of copies keep stuff safe

maneuvering across the shifting sands of records accessibility laws can easily frustrate the family genealogist.

this decade's stringent homeland security laws saw many of us cringe as even records publicly accessible for years were put under wraps to comply with new laws. we also discovered that we weren't the only ones practicing an increasing sensitivity to the risk of identity theft by putting family information online. as a result, those of us who already believed that a good family historian can never have too much documentation have revved up our storage mania and become bigger packrats than ever. i know that my own appreciation for those who willingly share vital family information with me has grown exponentially in the last three or four years. I'm just about ready to offer up a special daily prayer of thanks to contributors to genforum and rootsweb message boards and to (the thankfully-still-free) worldconnect.

today, i read a stanford university report of june 14, that the the library of congress has awarded the university funds toward a collaborative inititiative to preserve digital records for future generations. the initiative relies heavily on lockss (lots of copies keep stuff safe) and clockss (controlled lockss), technologies and programs designed to make certain that digital libraries' contents don't get lost or destroyed because of reliance on one centrally-administered repository.

genealogy researchers who have lost research due to failures in backing up their digital work on a home computer; those of us who have searched diligently for records only to discover that they were destroyed in a courthouse fire; or those of us who bemoan the hoops we have to jump through to get vital records information [ see one blog's take | here | ] because of homeland security laws or identity theft these days may certainly appreciate the lots of copies keep stuff safe mentality.

something to ponder from the lockss site:

Seven million pages of new information are added to the world-wide-web each day.... [A]cademic libraries are faced with the urgent problem of creating online collections with the staying power of traditional hardcopy books and journals. Information stored on paper can survive for millennia; information stored digitally today may not be recoverable next week.

and there, too, from thomas jefferson:

...let us save what remains: not by vaults and locks which fence them from the public eye and use in consigning them to the waste of time, but by such a multiplication of copies, as shall place them beyond the reach of accident." In Thomas Jefferson: Writings: Autobiography, Notes on the State of Virginia, Public and Private Papers, Addresses, Letters, edited by Merrill D. Peterson. New York: Library of America 1984.

[Sources: (1) Stanford Report, "Money granted for digital preservationn," June 14, 2006, Accessed 16 Jun 2006. (2) Home - LOCKSS. "Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe," Acessed 16 June 2006]

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