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Will the Internet Be the Archive of the Future?



As a historian, everything about the internet concerns me. There are two reasons for this. First, the rush to get rid of books (my friend’s school is shredding them if there is another copy in the state system and using them for insulation) and to put everything online assumes that the internet is around forever. If it isn’t, losing all that information is an enormous cultural catastrophe. Having paper copies of material is very important. Second, with the decline of letters, newspapers, etc., what is the raw material historians will use to tell stories of the past? The personal correspondence issue is a huge barrier and I don’t see how that will be crossed. One however would think the long-form journalism of the present and recent past would be protected from erasure. You would however be wrong, even if it is a multi-part Pulitzer Prize-nominated piece of acclaimed journalism. This is a major issue that we need to be taking seriously. There has to be archives of the present if we want our descendants to understand our society. If everything on the internet is deleted with a keystroke, those archives effectively do not exist.

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