Tower of London

Tower of London

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

ACADEMIC- The National Archives of Scotland

This picture courtesy of the website of the National Archives of Scotland
and can be found here.)

A national archive does not sound like it would be on the cutting edge of digitization technology, but then again, why not. After all, as Education Director Margaret McBigole pointed out to us, digital records can be altered in ways that original records simply cannot.

It was a small, but brilliant observation. An observation that really should be guiding the whole of the digitization process as we move towards figuring out what the next stage of librarianship will look like. It was an observation that set the tone of our whole visit.

The archives serve the government, but their interaction and availability to the general populace make up the majority of their daily tasks. On the outside, it seems like it would be a dull and tedious task to be holed up in the obscure and mundane records of the past, but it is only once you are inside the belly of the beast that you realize the story these records tell. A necessity for the government is a treasure chest of information for any genealogist or historian.

So where does that leave digitization? In terms of access, digitization is an easy yes. But Ms. McBigole makes a great point. What good is that information if it can be altered? Does the value of a digital collection as a whole decrease because of the knowledge that records could possibly have been altered? And what does this mean for libraries that want or need to make space and are digitizing in order to get rid of less valuable paper versions of digital items?

As a new librarian, we are taught that digitization is the wave of the future. We do not question because we know that the digital age is here to stay. And of course, the benefits of access with digitization make it seem like a win-win option. But as I enter my Information Ethics class this Fall, I will keep this visit at the forefront of my mind. There is a lot that still needs to be figured out if we are putting all of our hopes and information into the digitization movement.

To learn more about the work and collections of the National Archives of Scotland, click here.

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