The Question of Sustainability

Over the course of this semester, I have used a multitude of digital platforms to explore and display my research. I have used online databases and created my own sites online where I can showcase collections that I feel are relevant topics. The amount of information and data that I can compile and display online seems endless, and I can continually create new collections and sites to display my work. But when it comes to the preservation of these collections I – like every other person who compiles things digitally – am limited and restricted by fast-changing, sometimes faulty, and short-term digital platforms.

Jennifer Howard discusses this exact predicament in her article, “Born digital, projects need attention to survive.” She talks about how digital projects designed for CD-ROM finished just as CD-ROM’s weren’t being used anymore, so the curators of the project had to manually shift the entire project to a new platform, which will have to happen again as soon as the platform that its on now goes out of common use. But this transition from platform to platform requires knowledge and lots of work, generally done by a team of individuals who are trained for this specific need. While my projects are definitely nowhere near as extensive as the projects in Howard’s article, it does raise interesting points about the longevity of the projects that I currently have online.

The projects that I do have online include this blog, MapWarper, ArcGIS, Voyant, Omeka, and I’m sure there are others that I am forgetting. But the data that I have found and used in these programs, for the most part, come through the web. Online digital collections that I have linked or embedded in my blogs or on Omeka are only accessible to me online. So what happens to my projects if these collections are taken off the web? What happens if WordPress or Omeka are unavailable to be someday and I am no longer able to access or create or edit the work that I have published?

I do have the option on some of the platforms that I have used, like Omeka, Voyant, and ArcGIS to download some of my work just in case their online presence disappears. But for now, I have to trust that the information that I have accumulated over the semester will be there tomorrow for me to work on.

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