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The Grand Challenge: Curating CAD and Avoiding the Digital Dark Ages 2011/08/17

Posted by nydawg in Archives, Digital Archives, Digital Preservation, Electronic Records, Information Technology (IT).
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Long-time readers and members of the nydawg GoogleGroup have heard me repeatedly mention how exciting the transition from the Atomic Age (age of atoms) to the Information Age (age of bits) is for digital archivists, electronic records managers and information architects & managers.   On this blog, I previously posted a story on The University of Texas acquiring the papers of Bruce Sterling which  did not contain any floppy disks or CD-ROM media.  The reason, according to Sterling: “There are forms of media which are just inherently unstable and the attempt to stabilize them is like the attempt to go out and stabilize the corkboard at the laundromat.”

As archivists, this leads to the dilemma of not only preserving media, but making sure it is well-described and arranged, and that it remains accessible and can be curated  and distributed when needed.   To better understand this, it’s important to define curation which the IEEE Spectrum does in an article titled “Preserving the Present: Will Your Grandchildren Know What You Looked Like as a Child?“:  “Curating digital records means “to continuously maintain and improve” them rather than trying to save the records after they’ve stopped being useful, sort of speak. The problem is that by the time we decide to preserve a digital record, the devices needed to read the file formats are often no longer readily available.”

The article also pointed me to a one-page printable PDF which clearly defines the problems, the context and a proposed solution.  Of course it is mostly theoretical since future media formats have not yet been invented, discovered or marketed yet, but it suggests that some people out there are beginning to understand that computer processing and Information Technology cannot and will not solve all our problems. . . .  .  Ideally, that should be where a Digital Archivist comes in, right?!

“Up until the turn of the millennium, Engineering software was used to support a paper-based workflow. Computer-aided design (CAD)
packages were used to create virtual models of designs, from which drawings and other design documentation could be produced. The manufacture or construction process was based on this documentation.  Within the last five years or so, the industry has moved over to using the CAD models directly for communicating designs, not only to manufacturers and builders, but also to regulating authorities and maintenance crews. At the same time, the companies that design and build the products are increasingly entering into contracts to provide through-life support for them. For products such as cruise ships, military aircraft, hospitals and schools, this could mean contracts lasting thirty years, seventy years or even longer.”

for details, check out the one page “Curating Digital Engineering Documents” from Knowledge &  Information Management and DCC

dk

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