drafted by Tony Gill, Research Libraries Group
We, the undersigned, believe that
Society has a vital interest in preserving materials that document issues, ideas, discourse and events. But our ability and commitment as a society to preserve our cultural memory are far from secure. Custodians of the cultural record, such as museums, libraries and archives, have always had to manage the inherent conflict between allowing people to use materials from their collections, and preserving those materials for future use.
Digital technology has numerous advantages as a means of recording and providing access to our cultural memory, and if both original materials and digital surrogates are correctly preserved, may help relieve the traditional conflict between preservation and access. However, digital technology also poses new threats and problems: Reading and understanding information in digital form requires equipment and software that quickly becomes obsolete. Rapid changes in the means of recording information, in the formats for storage, and in the technologies for use threaten to render the life of information in the digital age as "nasty, brutish and short."
Today, digital information is penetrating and transforming
nearly every aspect of our culture. If we are to effectively preserve the
portion of this rapidly expanding corpus of digital information that represents
our cultural record for future generations, we need to commit ourselves
technically, legally, economically and organizationally to the full dimensions
of the task. We must also be aware that it is not enough simply to preserve
digital "bits" without context; both content and context are necessary to
understanding the cultural record. The failure to develop trusted means and
methods of digital preservation will result in a stiff, long-term cultural
penalty for future generations.
Canadian Heritage (Canada)