Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on the Future of the Book

The Preservation of Born Digital Collections: Not how, but why at all?

Dr Steven Escar Smith.

E-book developers have not been well-served by the paradigm of the printed codex text in much the same way that early printers were not well-served by the paradigm of the manuscript book. Likewise, archivists of digital material have not been well-served by the paradigm of the hard-copy archive. In the last few years librarians and archivists have begun grappling with the problem of storing and preserving “born digital” materials and their descendants, i.e. the second and later generations of digital materials harvested, re-formed, re-used, and redeployed from their original sites into new electronic, web-based collections and forms. In some cases, librarians, archivists, and others have resorted to downloading electronic files and screen prints to acid free paper for housing in archival folders and boxes and then storage on the shelves of traditional, hard-copy libraries or archives. While such practices are understandable, they are far from ideal. They have also proven the exception rather than the rule. This paper, however, will not suggest new ways of perpetually storing digital collections. Neither will it necessarilly review emerging methods. Rather, the author seeks to provoke furhter thought on a far more fundamental level. He will begin by asking not how, but rather if digital collections should be preserved at all.


Dr Steven Escar Smith  (United States)
Director and Associate Dean
Cushing Memorial Library and Archives
Texas A&M University

Dr Steven Escar Smith is Director of the Cushing Memorial Library and Archives and Associate Dean for Advancement of the Texas A&M University Libraries. He holds the C. Clifford Wendler Cushing Library Professorship. He also holds an adjunct appointments on the graduate faculty of the Department of English, Texas A&M, and on the faculty of the School of Library and Information Science at the University of North Texas. He has been at Texas A&M for 12 years. He holds degrees from the University of South Carolina and from Texas A&M. He has published and lectured extensively on the history of books and printing as well as on the management of archives and special collections libraries.

  • digital collections
  • perpetual access
  • archive
  • preservation

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)