Caring for Digital Collections in the Anthropocene

Earlier this month, I had the chance to give a talk as part of the Dr. Elizabeth w. Stone Lecture Series. It’s pretty humbling to be a part of a series that is now entering it’s fourth decade and includes people like Kate Zwaard, Deanna Marcum, Clifford Lynch, Siva Vaidhyanathan, Carla Hayden, and Henriette Avram as previous speakers. I thought the talk went well. I particularly enjoyed the great questions I got from the audience.

Several folks asked about if there was a video of the event, which I’m happy to share below. I’ve also posted my slides and notes from the talk in case folks would rather skim through it.

Video of the talk 

Slides for the talk 

The slide deck and text of the talk is up as this PDF too.

Caring for Digital Collections in the Anthropocene

The craft of digital preservation and digital collections care is anchored in the past. It builds off the records, files, and works of those who came before us and those who designed and set up the systems that enable the creation, transmission, and rendering of their work. At the same time, the craft of digital preservation is also the work of a futurist. We must look to the past trends in the ebb and flow of the development of digital media and hedge our bets on how digital technologies of the future will play out. This talk explores key issues for exploring and imagining that future. We start with consideration of some key emerging technologies relevant to digital collections and then zoom out to consider the future of digital collections in the context of technologies of surveillance, precarity of both cultural heritage institutions and cultural heritage workers in the context of neoliberalism, and then explore the broad set of challenges facing the future of collections stemming from the increasing effects of anthropogenic climate change. Drawing on frameworks for maintenance, care, and repair this talk concludes with an opportunity to reflect on and consider how memory and information workers should approach the digital present and future of our institutions and professions.

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