Ephemera and the National Memory

I continue to be concerned with what I once called digital cultural amnesia. Though in reflecting on the word “amnesia” I no longer think it’s the best way to express the problem. Lynne Brindley, chief executive of the British Library, writes about the phenomenon in The Observer.

Too many of us suffer from a condition that is going to leave our grandchildren bereft. I call it personal digital disorder. Think of those thousands of digital photographs that lie hidden on our computers. Few store them, so those who come after us will not be able to look at them… it’s my job to ensure that this does not extend to our national memory.

She takes the personal analogue and raises it to a national level. Her article goes on to cite examples of the ephemeral nature of whatever is present on the Web, and explains the loss inflicted when this web material disappears.

Brindley identifies the issue as an important responsibility for libraries and archives, which of course reminds me of the 2007 Canadian Digital Information Strategy (PDF) draft from Library and Archives Canada. (I wrote some thoughts on that as well).

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