The September 11 Digital Archive

The September 11 Digital Archive was organized by the American Social History Project at the City University of New York Graduate Center and the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. Containing more that 150,000 digital items (emails, photographs, documents, stories and more), the Archive was accepted by the Library of Congress into its collections in 2003.

From the web site:

Our goal is to create a permanent record of the events of September 11, 2001. In the process, we hope to foster some positive legacies of those terrible events by allowing people to tell their stories, making those stories available to a wide audience, providing historical context for understanding those events and their consequences, and helping historians and archivists improve their practices based on the lessons we learn from this project.

Browse: Explore the collection for stories, images, emails, documents, sounds, and videos of September 11

Research: Search, sort, and examine the entire collection

Contribute: Tell your story, add your email, and upload images, documents, and other digital files to the Archive

Take the iPad, leave the cannoli


WILLIAMSBURG — City Manager Jack Tuttle made an appearance on national television today because of a City Council decision to nix paper agendas in favor of Apple iPads as a money-saving venture.

The city launched itself into the 21st century in July when the council voted unanimously to forgo printing thousands of pages of agendas and other documents distributed to council members each year. Instead, each of the five council members was issued an iPad at a cost of about $600 apiece.

The measure should save a minimum $2,000 per year on council agendas alone. At today’s City Council meeting, Tuttle said the city saved $471 in printing costs by using the iPads to deliver the meeting’s agenda packets rather than printing them.

I’m on the periphery of record management, believe me; I’m an archivist and a curator, so my work is far more subjective. But I do know that municipalities are drowning in paper, churning out more and more every day, and needing to retain all of it… and the space required, and the practical considerations, are daunting. That printing cost savings may not sound like a bundle, but it adds up… and so does the clutter.

My town used to not only print but *bind* the Town Board minutes, and then have a separate set printed for each and every councilmember and department head. Which added up to a dozen or so of these things, and there are about 50 volumes. Sigh. I am the Lorax, and I speak for the trees that wee slaughtered to make all those ugly tomes.

Thankfully the town stopped producing the things. And no one wants their old copies now, of course, but they’re all scanned in and digitized and let’s be honest, finding anything in the printed copies was like looking for a needle in a haystack anyhow. Now, of COURSE I have a set, at the town museum, and of course I’m keeping it. But how many copies of the 1943 volume do you think I need? One? Or twelve?

Documenting the business of history is important, but I think it’s high time more municipalities tried something like Williamsburg is doing.

Who can save our archives? Turning to the private sector for digitization.

This morning I was catching up on listservs and came across a link to this article in The Chicago Sun Times:

The Sun-Times Preserves Its Photo Archive by Selling It
Posted by Michael Miner on Thu, May 6, 2010

It’s worth a read. The title isn’t misleading, but there’s more to the story. The paper’s archive was sold off to a private individual, John Rogers, who is digitizing the entire collection. When finished:

The Sun-Times retains “all the intellectual property, all the copyrights,” Barron said. What’s more, Rogers is obliged to re-create the “entire library in digital searchable form,” and make it accessible to the Sun-Times. This means Rogers is doing for the Sun-Times something it couldn’t afford to do for itself but dearly wanted to. “If we could have pulled it off,” said Barron, “it would have taken years and years and years and millions of dollars.” So the deal was a “dream come true.” And far from surrendering its photo archive, he says, once it’s digitized the Sun-Times will be able to exploit it to tap a growing “aftermarket” for copies of old news photos.

The items that are appearing on eBay are duplicates, Rogers clarified. Or “things I don’t want”, he also said, which I found a little too vague. Still it’s hard to argue with what this man is doing to preserve a unique collection. That is, assuming he’s doing it right, as opposed to the sloppy way Google is digitizing books (in my humble opinion).

(Make sure to read the updates at the end of the article, with further information. I’m especially glad they clarified the bit about the library who was “keeping their photos in the basement”, making it sound like they were in old fruit boxes next to the washer, as opposed to being carefully stored in an archive.)

Microsoft, Yahoo, Amazon to challenge Google Books deal

As I posted a few weeks ago and you have surely read about in the news (when you weren’t watching town hall meetings turn into bizarro-world, that is) Google Books negotiated a legal settlement recently that isn’t sitting well with a lot of folks. Apparently the Other Big Three are weighing in.

From AP, via Huffington Post:
Microsoft, Yahoo, Amazon to challenge Google Books deal

SAN FRANCISCO — The fight against a legal settlement that would give Google Inc. the digital rights to millions of copyrighted books is starting to resemble a heavyweight brawl in the library.

Microsoft Corp., Yahoo Inc. and Inc. are joining a coalition that hopes to rally opposition to Google’s digital book ambitions and ultimately persuade a federal judge to block or revise the Internet search leader’s plans.

The group, to be called the Open Book Alliance, is being put together by the Internet Archive, a longtime critic of Google’s crusade to make digital copies of as many printed books as possible. A growing number of critics already have filed objections to Google’s book settlement, but none have the clout that the Open Book Alliance figures to wield with three of the world’s best-known technology companies on board.

Read more…

Do You Really Own What’s on Your Kindle?

I thought this was fascinating — I had NO idea that there was any wiggle-room of doubt in this area. If you read the article below, though, it seems you can buy a Kindle e-book, and later have it deleted remotely from your device. Your money’s refunded, of course, but that’s not really the point. I’ve been lusting after a Kindle (but resisting), not to replace printed books (heavens no!) but just because, well, shiny! This makes me wonder a little, though. That instant connection Amazon’s always bragging about, with the Kindle — I guess it goes both ways…

Do You Really Own What’s On Your Kindle?
By Omar L. Gallaga

Introduce a new media product embraced by many, be prepared to jog through a minefield of rights management issues.

That’s what Amazon is learning now that a publisher has decided to pull e-books from the Kindle e-reader by George Orwell. Customers who’d bought some versions of Animal Farm and 1984 discovered their money refunded and the books zapped from their devices, something Amazon can do remotely via the device’s Internet connection.

As David Pogue and others have noted, there’s something a bit Orwellian about a company being able to delete something from afar that you might be in the middle of reading.

It brings up the issue of whether you really own the content you buy for your Kindle given that Amazon has the ability to take it from you at any time.

What do you think? Did the publisher and Amazon have the right to take back the e-books after they’d already been purchased?