Messages in different Media
Archives have never been confined to parchment or paper. Anything on which information is recorded, such as a wax seal, can have its place.
Each different medium presents a challenge to the curator, as it may require specialised preservation techniques and conditions of storage. In some cases, the focus is on prolonging the life of the material. In other cases, the challenge is to repair damage or reduce the risk of future loss. Thus, for example, broken seals are conserved and given their own protective wrappings.
The rapid advance of technology in the twentieth century has created new demands. Different media, or at least the hardware required for operation, rapidly become obsolete. Access to the information held on vinyl records, audio tapes, moving image films, videos and slides is dependent on having the correct player or projector.
The greatest challenge lies in digital data, as there is risk at every stage, including software, data content, and hardware. Digital preservation is now a priority for governments and all organisations as well as private individuals backing up their home PC.
For curators, the digital world presents new choices and dilemmas. It is difficult to catalogue new archives which are in digital formats, or to ensure long-term access for researchers. But the technology has also opened up new development opportunities for the traditional paper and parchments collections. Older or more vulnerable items on parchment or paper can be viewed online, making these resources safely available to a wider public.
Digitised version of lantern slides showing Southwell Minster, 1890s [Ev 49 and Ev 66]
Lantern slides and other transparencies are vulnerable to damage and need to be viewed in person, using the correct projector. Digitisation of the slides offers a way of reproducing the images. They can then be placed on a website for researchers across the world to view.
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