I recently came across a stunning and intriguing online photo gallery titled Digitizing the past and present at the Library of Congress from BoingBoing.net that has images and captions tell a story of how the Library of Congress is taking millions of analog artifacts and creating digital assets of them.
One has to wonder when the library would finally become full. At what point do you stop stuffing boxes with archives and start filling servers, disks and now your cloud? For the Library of Congress investment of time and money to generate digital copies of these archives is staggering, but the end goal of making these artifacts available to future generations is simply priceless.
The digital capturing is just the first step of this tremendous undertaking to preserve centuries of archives in the World’s largest library. It’s hard not to appreciate the meticulous work needed to take one fragile book from the 1400s and create a scan or digital image of every page without damaging the item, which is still easier said than done. Even taking it a step beyond preserving artifacts, the Library of Congress is employing tools to restore artifacts to their near originals, essentially turning back the clock.
This preservation initiative would certainly not be complete if there wasn’t a way to properly organize and then search for those millions of new digital assets. This is of course where digital asset management solutions come in.
Anyone can access the Library of Congress’ DAM system, which it calls simply American Memory, and browse through the artifacts like the Gettysburg Address, a telegram from Orville Wright announcing the first successful flight, and a World Map from 1595 among many, many others. Although it’s not a very advanced digital asset management system, it’s an access point to relics from history that would otherwise be unattainable.
In the end, what used to be a decomposing dance manual from 1651 sitting on a shelf in a former nuclear bunker is now captured as a tiny digital file, saved forever and now able to be enjoyed by anyone, anywhere all thanks to some cutting edge cameras and one digital asset management system.