“Yes We Scan”

Last week I received an electronic flyer from the National Coalition of History promoting a petition to the White House via the new “We the People” mechanism. The petition asked the President “to create a commission that will answer–within 1 year–questions such as what are our federal holdings, what would it take to digitize them, how much would it cost, and what are the economic and non-economic benefits?” In order for the petition to meet success, it had to garner 25,000 signatures. I had planned to treat with it in this post, but alas, today was the petition’s deadline. According to the White House site, the petition failed to meet the required signature threshold, and it has vanished into the ether.

Clearly, this is not the end of the story. We’ve written before about digitized archives and records and reviewed the benefits to researchers and the headaches to archivists that they are. The Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero, has expressed his support of an “update of policies and practices [for] the digital age”. YesWeScan, which already has had success in getting government legal documents digitized goes further: their 21 December 2011 letter to the President calls for  the establishment of a Presidential Commission to look at the long-term benefits and costs of digitization, and to fashion a unified national policy regarding digitization of federal holdings.

Needless to say, the Feds are the 800 pound gorilla in this matter: what the government decides here will have immense influence throughout the archival and historical communities, both here and around the world. It behooves us, therefore, to pay attention to the matter, and to weigh in when we see it necessary.

©2012 Thomas L Snyder

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