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Volume: 1 | Article ID: art00049
Rethinking Stewardship for the Digital Age
  DOI :  10.2352/issn.2168-3204.2004.1.1.art00049  Published OnlineJanuary 2004

Over a period of centuries, societies have developed the idea of a lasting intellectual and cultural record, and have evolved a series of cultural memory organizations – including libraries, archives, and museums – to manage this record within a very complex framework of law, public policy, economics, and social consensus. This heritage, still largely manifest in physical materials and sites, is fragile and at risk; there have been many attacks on parts of it over the last century. The ability to create and distribute digital surrogates for these cultural materials helps to mitigate that risk, as well as improving access; however, at some level, this activity challenges many of the historic stewardship practices.Going forward, our intellectual and cultural record will include an increasing portion of materials that are created in digital form, and exist intrinsically in the digital medium – “born digital” works. These digital works too are fragile and greatly at risk: in the near term, they need to be protected, and in the longer run they need to be preserved. The issues here are numerous: the allocation of responsibility for stewardship, and the legal and economic issues that must be resolved in order to enable effective stewardship; the objectives of preservation for digital materials, and the methods that will allow these objectives to be realized; understanding the full array of threats that digital materials will face.The definition and scope of the intellectual and cultural record of our society is not static; it evolves based on cultural, social and public policy factors; changing norms and practices in science and scholarship; and technological developments that alter the economics and feasibility of what can be captured and saved. In an increasingly digital world, I believe that we are entering a period of rapid evolution in the conceptual framing of this intellectual and cultural record in ways that will have profound effects on personal and public life, organizational behavior, and public policy. In particular, we will see great changes not only in the part of the intellectual and cultural record that is “born public” through the work of government or the marketplace, but which crosses the interface between private spheres and the public sphere later in its lifecycle. These developments will have wide-reaching implications for individual behavior, for organizations, and for nation-states, and also for the ongoing work of cultural memory organizations.

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Clifford A. Lynch, "Rethinking Stewardship for the Digital Agein Proc. IS&T Archiving 2004,  2004,  pp 231 - 231,

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