digitization: benefits and challenges

The Internet has already formed the crux of how people receive information in today’s age. Unfortunately, this means that more attention is being paid to the creation of digital documents, rather than the preservation of hard-copy documents, which are frequently neglected and not preserved properly. This due to more concrete conditions, such as storage environments. Preserving hard-copy documents offers more flexibility for storage as information can be stored on websites and even in the cloud. Historians and IT specialists alike can utilize the benefits of technology in order to preserve older materials for generations to come. Too often, society prefers to forget history and quickly move forward to solve current events. However, this exact mindset holds society back. The past dictates the future and ignoring it is the primary cause for making mistakes. Looking at this collection, for example, one can begin to understand how and why Franklin treated race differently than other locations in North Carolina and the United States. This opens up conversation about the effects of how race was perceived and how it continues to be perceived in that area.

The possibility for collaboration among researchers, historians, and technical specialists are endless. Web-publishing platforms such as WordPress and Omeka make the adding of users and the updating of content simple for those who are not technically-endowed, yet open-ended enough that web programmers can create almost any type of structure for their site. WordPress is a content management system that was created with the user in mind (WordPress). Omeka was created in order to create “complex narratives and share rich collections” (Omeka). The merging of both systems allows these narratives to be further extended due to the additional features that each system provides. The implementation of a WordPress’ blogging features would further encourage discussions among not only historians involved in the project, but also those outside of the project. And for those who are more technical, the creation of digital collections inspires conversation about how data can be better structured on the web and how to prepare for the preservation of items in the future.

Projects such as these are important for not only the aforementioned groups, but also the general public. People deserve to have access to materials that affect their lives and can add to their knowledge. If more people think that history is important and emphasize it, then this trickles down to those of the younger generation. Specifically, it is imperative that those of the African American community understand alternate perspectives of their history and their family history. These individuals have been told time and again that they have no history. Being able to see where they come from has the potential to have a significant impact on development, as it provides a sense of accomplishment and also a sense of belonging┬áto “a place in the world” (Kenward). Tracing history also can give a greater understanding of issues in society today, such as issues of race.

The most challenging part of digitizing historical documents lies in the constant, rapid evolution of technology. Keeping up with different data forms and systems will be imperative to keeping up with technology. In contrast to the stagnant data forms of historical documents, this will be a challenge that will require studying migration techniques in order to keep formats as current as possible (Cohen).

© Property of Olivia Dorsey.

Cohen, D., & Rosenzweig, R. (2005). Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web. Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Kenward, A. (2003). Genealogy. Retrieved from http://www.ucalgary.ca/mp2003/unicomm/research/stories/genealogy.html

Omeka. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://omeka.org/

WordPress > Blog Tool and Publishing Platform. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://wordpress.org/