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The E-Sylum:  Volume 11, Number 16, April 20, 2008, Article 18

TIM SHUCK ON DIGITIZING NUMISMATIC LITERATURE

Regarding our discussion on digitizing numismatic literature,
Tim Shuck writes: "The concern over whether current data
formats will survive into the future is legitimate but perhaps
a bit overwrought. Similar concerns were expressed in the early
phases of the transition from film to digital photography; that
is, until it occurred to people that those photo prints in many
situations weren't all that permanent either.  Uncertainties
and debate on which digital format, sure, but on whether digital,
not so much. The benefits of digital, from manipulation to
storage to access, are simply too great.

"So what about the question of whether today's formats will be
usable in the future? In a word, maintenance. There seems to be
a sense that once in digital format those data never need to be
touched again, derived I suppose from the experience that once
we own a book we can take it down from the shelf years later in
basically the same condition. For digital data that perspective
is a sure path to data loss, as some have already discovered.

"Data need to be maintained just like a house or a car need
to be maintained. There are other issues but at a minimum if
you standardize on a data format for digital file storage you
also need to stay current with that software manufacturer's
upgrades; and if it happens that the format goes away, follow
the path recommended by the manufacturer or third-party vendors.
Periodically test your files, particularly after upgrades; and
do I need to mention backups?

"As for storage of physical documents, there is a practical
limit to the amount of space available both personally or
institutionally.  Saving everything in physical format is,
I think, not reasonable (probably a heretical thing to say
on a numismatic bibliophile forum).

I know many numismatists have significant document libraries,
which of course is a legitimate personal choice. But life is
temporary. Will those responsible for your estate be as sanguine
toward those walls filled with books and literature?

"What's needed is discrimination, 'the quality or power of
finely distinguishing' as Webster states it. No reasonable
person would suggest that because the Gutenberg Bible is
available in digital format it's ok to throw away the original.
But surely that level of conservatorship is not needed for
every numismatic periodical, catalog, and book that's ever
been produced. Choices need to be made, based on experience
and perspective, on what should be kept as a physical object,
and what might be better kept (and maybe even be more usable)
as a digital object. I think the storage constraints will
force the decision that way.

"Personally, I'm in both worlds. I enjoy reading a book, the
ones in paper or cloth, because I find that format more
conducive to contemplative reading. For periodicals, either
current or past, for reference, and for research I'd rather
view digital files; and look forward to the day when digital
documents are more ubiquitous, better quality, and more easily
used. The cleverness of entrepreneurship will eventually make
the physical vs digital choice moot, but we're not there yet."

 THOUGHTS ON DIGITIZING NUMISMATIC LITERATURE
 esylum_v11n15a14.html

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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