Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Missing Paper

Following the mainstream media, CNN, Foxnews, MSNBC doesn't really do it for me. I am concerned that I am not hearing the whole story, and spend a lot of time trying to verify soundbytes. Just today I realized I was also missing the comic relief and sense of permanence the printed papers gave me.

There are so many issues around the globe that I never heard of or cared about twenty years ago. Twenty years ago, preinternet, I got my news from printed sources and non-cable TV. I now get my news in digital formats and it takes up a lot more time. There is also something about the smell of ink, the black fingers I used to get and the rustle of the pages as they turned that I truly miss.

I used start with the comics first, then business news, then the front section and variety. Back then I read the printed versions of Orange County Register and the Wall Street Journal. This usually took me about 45 minutes to an hour (yes I skimmed first), and then I would clip the articles I wanted to read again or share with others.

With links and virtual storage, in order to share today's Garfield comic strip, I have to email a link or embed it into my html code. Once I send off that link, I never know whether or not the link will stay current for longer than a day.

In my day job, I am a genealogist for a small regional museum and historical society. I find myself struggling to balance researchers perception that the bulk of our archive is digitized. Like 100% of all archives in America, most of our collection is undigitized, unindexed and unavailable via the internet. The time or resources to digitize everything are just not available. Even though genealogy books, such as Genealogy for Dummies lets genealogists know that they can't find everything online, there are quite a few who are unable or unwilling to do the physical work to see the archives and see actual documents.

I am the most technically savvy of the group and so I was appointed web guru by our executive director. I do the website and help with technical aspects of digitizing documents. One thing I haven't figured out yet is what we are going to do with maintaining an archive of our digital collection.

As we are a museum, I believe we will always have physical documents but the costs for caring for those documents are rising. More and more people want access to our collection without visiting our physical location and we need to figure out how to charge for it. With everyone thinking the internet is "free", that has to be figured out before we can give up paper.