What will happen to items not digitized?





SALINAS, Calif. -- The National Steinbeck Center, at the top of Main Street in this farming community, exhibits an array of artifacts from John Steinbeck's life and works...Downstairs, in a climate-controlled vault, is the original manuscript of "The Pearl," his novella published in 1947...

Steinbeck aficionados wishing to examine the manuscript of "The Pearl"...have to travel here -— after making an appointment with a part-time archivist, who is in on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

The center takes great care to preserve these relics of Steinbeck, a Nobel laureate, yet it has no plans to take the collection a step further, to adapt to a digital age...

These Steinbeck artifacts are not the only important pieces of history that are at risk of disappearing or being ignored in the digital age. As more museums and archives become digital domains, and as electronic resources become the main tool for gathering information, items left behind in nondigital form, scholars and archivists say, are in danger of disappearing from the collective cultural memory, potentially leaving our historical fabric riddled with holes.

"There's an illusion being created that all the world's knowledge is on the Web, but we haven't begun to glimpse what is out there in local archives and libraries," said Edward L. Ayers, a historian and dean of the college and graduate school of arts and sciences at the University of Virginia. "Material that is not digitized risks being neglected as it would not have been in the past, virtually lost to the great majority of potential users."...



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