Sunday, October 09, 2005

Digital divide

When I was working at Harvard, the focus of the digital programs was broad subjects, like Latin American pamphlets, women working, and immigration. When I moved to ISU, I was glad to see that their focus was on local history, and they were happy to let the larger institutions handle the big subjects. One of the benefits of my job is traveling to small local libraries, historical societies, and museums, introducing them to our project, and asking them to join. Since I started in this position (not quite 3 months), I've visited four small public libraries, a small academic library, two historical societies, a museum, and an archive. What I've noticed most is that these institutions are struggling to get their daily tasks done, and many times a digital project isn't even in the scope of their budget and resources. However, these institutions have been around as long as ours (if not longer), and they have many historical documents and treasures that would benefit from inclusion in a digital program. Although we've been able to offer the local cultural institutions a place in our project, there are lots and lots of other small cultural institutions that will never be able to initiate a digital program. As digital programs become more complex, is it possible to help our neighbors so that they don't fall behind? As small towns in America slowly fade away, it is important to preserve and document their history.


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