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Research, Reference and Historical Study Books, maps, orders-of-battle and other references. .

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Old 09 Aug 17, 13:41
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The future of historical study

I was just thinking how my yahoo email address is probably ten years old(maybe more, I have no idea when I opened it), and how many other emails I've used and discarded throughout the years. In fact, the only reason I still have the email, is that the inbox contains a lot of emails I've received, and thus is a sort of personal archie. Not to mention everything else; all the registers, computers, credit cards, etc and what not that has a trace of me or my usage in them.

Which leads me to wonder how this will affect future historical study? First of all, what if there are no permanent traces. What if all our "electronic traces" are simply thrown out to the garbage bin, or they decay? Given that these days other sources(books, letters, diaries, newspapers, etc) are being used less and less to record data, how will this affect things?

Assuming otherwise, do you think in the future people will be able to "hunt" our past by going through colossal archives of internet data? What if for one hundred year from now all the emails you have sent and received are there to peruse at will(I can't imagine they couldn't break all encryption at will)? How many pages of discovery will be written on the eternal conflict of the political discussion at ACG?

Or, right now we are in the age of information, disinformation and repetition. How much of the data on the internet, of which most is utter garbage, will be there for future historians to study? Funnily enough, though most of it is garbage, is it not ancient garbage dumps from where archaeologists dig out the most precious data of how people lived? Somehow it amuses me to think of people going through all this to discover hitherto forgotten memes like we find cave paintings...
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Old 09 Aug 17, 16:06
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The Internet as a midden. I like that. But the future of historical research will be found on hard drives and disks stashed away for "safe keeping".
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Old 14 Aug 17, 07:18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OpanaPointer View Post
The Internet as a midden. I like that. But the future of historical research will be found on hard drives and disks stashed away for "safe keeping".
Safe keeping where? How long does data last on hard drives? SSD? USB? What if all the data simply disappears.
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Old 14 Aug 17, 12:14
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I was once involved in a serious study on the future of archival records given the likely rise of the problems that Karri has raised. The study was originally initiated by the British Library but other bodies such as the House of Commons Library and the Parliamentary archives became involved. The problem is wider than just electronic records.
  • Much modern paper has a very high acid content and will break down in about a century or less so paper records are also vulnerable.
  • The media on which data is stored electronically keeps changing - any one still got a working zip disc reader? Got stuff on old floppies? It is likely to continue to do so so unless archived data is continually transfered to the latest device it will also become unreadable overtime. The British Library maintains a collection of obsolete disk and other forms of storage readers so that data received on obsolete media can be read but these themselves will eventually break down.
  • There is evidence from the US Library of Congress that CDs do not 'live' as long as it was thought they would do and it is feared that the same will apply to DVDs
  • Memory sticks are not a reliable form of long term storage

A further problem emerged from the Cabinet Office. It is difficult to change paper records without leaving traces of having done so. Although it is theoretically possible to build in some safeguards into e-records in reality everything is hackable if the right expertise and technology is applied so how is one to know that the vital e mail for example has not been altered or even forged?

One conclusion reached was that for very long term archival storage (for example a time capsule) a micro film version was a good idea. It only takes quite basic technology to build a micro film reader. Today the cloud is being mooted as the repository for storage but this merely removes to problems to a different location and ensures that larger amounts of data can be lost more quickly.

One advantage of records on some e format is that search engines may be able to find what you are looking for in the midden and AI may prove to be a blessing here
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