Saturday, January 12, 2013

Open Discussion Weekend: How Much Can We Preserve?

Yesterday's Lincoln (NE) Journal-Star newspaper ran a front page story about 33,000 boxes of Lancaster County documents in storage. Many of these documents are destined to be shredded for the plain and simple reason: there is no more space!

The boxes include court cases, personal correspondence, medical records, and more. You name it, it's probably here. If the rightful owners of the documents don't come forward within the next 10 days, these documents are headed for the shredder.

The topic of this article generated some discussion on my Facebook wall yesterday, so I thought it would be a good topic for Open Discussion Weekend.

How much information is too much information? How do we, as individuals and organizations, deal with the information overload from the 20th and 21st centuries?

My local society, Lincoln-Lancaster County Genealogical Society, has wrestled with the issue. As much as we want to preserve as much genealogical history as possible, we are certainly not equipped to have the heir of a deceased genealogist drop 15 boxes of files and photographs in our laps. No amount of volunteer genealogy armies could begin to sort and digitize the information that might be donated from one researcher, let alone from 30 or 40.

To address the issue, one of our upcoming society meetings will focus on what to do with all of this Stuff. What can we preserve and what format should it be in? Can we cull enough of our research into printed (or digital) format that we can leave behind something that can be managed by our libraries and societies? Do we share it all online? How can we be sure that sharing information in the Cloud will last over the next 100 years?

What are you or your local organization doing to deal with document overload? How can we preserve our research for future genealogists and family members without being on an episode of Hoarders? Or worse yet, having someone trash it all after we are gone.

Please discuss in the comments section below.

1 comment:

  1. When I look at my own files I am overwhelmed. I'm working on organizing and digitizing this year but it is a daunting task. When I look at the list of items about to be shredded I am saddened. Those documents could be the key for so many researchers. Yet I realize it is not possible to hang on to everything, or even digitize that collection. I don't know what the answer is. But I certainly think it's a question we ought to be seriously considering.