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What is Technology? Archives’ “Frenemy”

October 29th, 2009 · No Comments


Technology relative to the field of Archives is a much-needed friend as well as an enemy of sorts. The merits of technology are easy to note – probably most importantly the quick access it provides to Archives both internally and externally. Items are much easier to keep track of and to locate internally. When items are made available to the public online, research is easier, time is saved, and so are many other resources. There’s no doubt that technology has opened Archives up to the world.

The speed with which information can be uploaded and made available is astounding – whether from a digital camera, digital video recorder, or general file type (Word, Excel, etc.). Gone are the days of waiting days, if not weeks, to update your files and information. Time to clear the library of that old hand-written card catalog. Or is it?

The enemy moniker comes into play in many ways, though, making technology difficult for many Archives and Archivists to embrace. Cost is one of the major issues. Small and large, corporate and not-for-profit Archives struggle to make initial hardware, software, and programming purchases – never mind upgrades and constant format changes and improvements. Not only is the hard cost of upgrades an issue, but also the soft costs of redoing, reformatting, and migrating file types.

Nevermind power failures, unreadable files or disks, or fried hard drives. Not that Mother Nature can’t do plenty of damage to our trusty old hard copies and originals of everything – we can’t make it sound like technology is our only worry as Archivists!

Technology isn’t just software and hardware either. A whole new world has been opened up to Archives with various social media options available to inform others about activities within your Archives as well as promoting and marketing your Archives or services. This blog is one of them! Others include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace, etc. The drawback to these relatively new technologies is the time it takes to keep them fresh with regularly updated materials. Another consideration is to decide what you hope to gain – new business, cheap PR, disseminating information as a gesture of goodwill?

While Technology offers plenty of concerns to the Archives community, you can’t really beat all of the advantages it offers us. So, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to run and do some online research for a larger scanner for my next project!

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Category: What is IT?