Large Scale Databases

The readings this week were quite interesting.

Asking the “so what?” question about the “Methodology for the Infinite Archives” William Turkel is raising questions about digital history, which I believe will one day obliterate the heart of archival functions as we know it. The transformation of providing “instant access to the contents of the world’s libraries and archives,” I believe is a much bigger history than Mr. Turkel suggest. Archivists, librarians, curators, records managers, information technologist should all look more “closely and critically” at the very nature of their job functions. I believe the demand for more efficiency and economy is driving the need for new skill sets of digitizing existing sources and exposing repositories through APIs. We are less likely to be driven by the ideals of history such as widespread literacy and not repeating the ills of past decisions. There is more conversation about migration and metadata than about provenance. Are we pacing the halls of Jorge Luis Borges’s the Library of Babel at the speed of business? Finding particular patterns, determine meaningful relationships, categorizing documents, and extracting essential information may presently be the work of present information theorist and but tommorrow’s prerequsite for knowledge workers (analyst, programmers, records managers, archivists, etc).

SAA Guidelines for the Graduate Program http://www.archivists.org/prof-education/ed_guidelines.asp#_ftn1 “Archivists, like all professionals, must rely on knowledge, methods, and perspectives from beyond their own discipline. Archivists need to be knowledgeable about significant theories, methods, and practices of some or all of these fields. Archivists help to secure society’s cultural heritage, protect legal rights and privileges, and contribute to the effective management of a wide range of institutions. Without a careful selection of records, our social, cultural, institutional, and individual heritages will be lost.

I believe archival science is somewhat (LWR) lost without the realization today. Even modest APIs can produce volumes of synthesized knowledge not originally envisioned by many archivist today. Exposed repositories of knowledge to algorithms, ranking schemes, and text analysis challenge every aspect of archival science in terms of who and how many professional archivist will be devoted the craft in the future. The categories of identification, selection, protection, organization, accessibility and description of archival records at the heart of archival science will not only be radically redefined but replaced by a machine in the future. Of course, there will be human analyst who will oversee and carefully review the more critical. However, I believe the historians with more intrepretive functions will survive with more employment buoyancy.

Inexpensive data warehouses in a collaborative environment could produce mega archives accessible to the most casual user from around the world. Although not the focus of Mr. Cohen in his article “from Babel to Knowledge: Data Mining Large Digital Collection” one could only wonder where does the digital history race end?

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~ by pencil on September 26, 2006.

One Response to “Large Scale Databases”

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