July 16, 2005

Data Curator, anyone?

Great article about the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in the June 2005 issue of Technology Review. David Talbot talks about what NARA's mission is (to save every document the government produces) and how that mission is complicated by documents that are "born digital." Said documents include email, anything written on a word processor, GIS documents, and even this blog.

Problems saving these documents are two-fold: first, they're hard to get; how much email are we supposed to save, anyway? second, their file format is likely to become obsolete in 5-10 years. Not very encouraging for future historians, who may want to read our emails in 100-200-300 years.

The good news is that there are many job opportunities for "...new kind of professional, an expert with the historian's eye ... but a computer scientist's understanding of storage technologies and a librarian's fluency with metadata." In the words of MacKenzie Smith, the associate director for technology at MIT Libraries, a "data curator" is what's needed.

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