I wasn’t entirely sure what the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) would look like when the long-awaited launch date of April 18 approached. The suspense is finally over: it looks great.
The DPLAs not going to be a digital version of your local public library’s collections and services – at least, not yet. It is trying to do three things right now: pull together digital assets from major national and regional digital collections into a well-organized, unified, easily searchable portal; provide digital tools and metadata that others can use to build new applications; and provide national leadership in the effort to encourage open and collective access to our shared cultural record.
Few things are more explicitly ephemeral than a Tweet. Yet it’s precisely this kind of ephemeral communication – a comment, a status update, sharing or disseminating a piece of media – that lies at the heart of much of modern history as it unfolds. It’s also a vital contemporary historical record that, unless we’re careful, we risk losing almost before we’ve been able to gauge its importance.
But what I wonder is: what can we do about it?
The University of Michigan Center for the History of Medicine, in partnership with the U-M Library’s MPublishing division, announces the release of The American Influenza Epidemic of 1918-1919: A Digital Encyclopedia, an original, open access digital collection of archival, primary, and interpretive materials related to the history of the 1918-1919 influenza epidemic in the United States.
The collection, located at www.influenzaarchive.org, contains more than 16,000 digitized documents—correspondence, minutes of organization and group meetings, reports from agencies and charities, newspaper accounts, military records, diaries, photographs, and more—along with interpretive materials contributed by scholars of history and public health.
I will confess a definite weakness for this sort of thing… and this site looks awesome. :)
One of the characteristics of the modern media age — at least for anyone who uses the web and social media a lot — is that we are surrounded by vast clouds of rapidly changing information, whether it’s blog posts or news stories or Twitter and Facebook updates. That’s great if you like real-time content, but there is a not-so-hidden flaw — namely, that you can’t step into the same stream twice, as Heraclitus put it. In other words, much of that information may (and probably will) disappear as new information replaces it, and small pieces of history wind up getting lost. According to a recent study, which looked at links shared through Twitter about news events like the Arab Spring revolutions in the Middle East, this could be turning into a substantial problem.
I knew they had video content, but not music. Awesome. :)
Some think of the Internet Archive as just the Wayback Machine, but we have other great collections. Our music collection is worth listening to and made some jumps recently:
Our live music collection now has over 100,000 concerts from over 5,000 bands (including an almost complete collection of Grateful Dead concerts)
See the occurrence of any single word in the Popular Sciencemagazine from 1872 to 2009. You can view the results in a table or in an animated outward spiral.
Raises some interesting points about the proliferation of digital information (files, photos, you name it) and its effect on access to that information (and totally separate from the issue of older files not being compatible with newer software).
Yes, all my files are on a computer or online, somewhere. But without permission, a password, most of them remain hidden. I try to store some of my stuff under “effinglibrarian” accounts, but I have lots of accounts under various usernames. If I were to bump my head and develop amnesia or die, would anyone ever learn who I was? I don’t have scrapbooks with photos of my trips to … see? I can’t even rememeber without finding the folders with the files.
Without account names and passwords, there is nothing to find. I will disappear.
Note that disabling Viewing and Search History in your YouTube account will not prevent Google from gathering and storing this information and using it for internal purposes. It also does not change the fact that any information gathered and stored by Google could be sought by law enforcement.
(All of my accounts just gave me the option to turn the history on, so apparently I never enabled it to begin with.)
The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) have to be understood in this light: it’s just another IP land grab. It’s an attempt to frighten those who would compete with the established media companies, an attempt to assert monopolistic control over creativity. The ability to take domains offline without due process, even on the basis of inadvertently linking to copyrighted material, is nothing if not an attempt to legitimize theft on a grand scale. Because there is no due process, a defendant can’t respond until he’s already out of business; and then, it’s a matter of whether the defendant can outlast Hollywood in their ability to pay legal fees. “Justice” is meaningless if you run out of money before you get to the end of your case.
Then as now, borrowing wasn’t limited to theatre. Mashups, which have been repeatedly attacked by the entertainment industry, are by no means a new art form; they’ve been central to creativity for years (related examples are embedded below). Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” incorporate a number of popular songs of the era, including the always popular “Cabbages and Beets drove me away from you,” in its entirety, along with “Get closer to me, baby” (that’s what the German really means, except the “baby” part). So did Beethoven’s sonatas, particularly the second movement of the magnificent Opus 110 piano sonata (“Our cat had kittens” and “ I’m a slob, you’re a slob”). I could list examples for pages; musicologists spend entire careers searching for this stuff. The complexity with which these songs are woven into a much greater piece is amazing, but they’re there, they’ve obviously there once you know what to look for, and they go way beyond what would survive “fair use” and the DMCA, let alone SOPA and PIPA.
How the Internet Looked in 1996 vs 2011 [Infographic]
Fascinating to think about. This is why keeping track of what you have (and having copies of that inventory outside your physical building) is so important.
Letters written by Helen Keller. Forty-thousand photographic negatives of John F. Kennedy taken by the president’s personal cameraman. Sculptures by Alexander Calder and Auguste Rodin. The 1921 agreement that created the agency that built the World Trade Center.
Besides ending nearly 3,000 lives, destroying planes and reducing buildings to tons of rubble and ash, the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks destroyed tens of thousands of records, irreplaceable historical documents and art.
In some cases, the inventories were destroyed along with the records. And the loss of human life at the time overshadowed the search for lost paper. A decade later, agencies and archivists say they’re still not completely sure what they lost or found, leaving them without much of a guide to piece together missing history.
…History Makers is a biographical database of Washington elected officials and activists from territorial times to present. Each individual’s entry includes a photograph, links, and basic biographical information, for example, occupations, offices, affiliations, birth and death dates, and marriage information. To date: Governors, Lieutenant Governors, Secretaries of States, Treasurers, U.S. Senators and U.S. Representatives are included.
What a neat idea! But only for the state of Washington… it would be awesome to have a similar database for all the states.