Archival black hole

This article does a very nice job of addressing the challenge of archiving electronic correspondence. Whereas I can go to L2 and see the notes of Joseph Murray as he prepared to perform the first successful transplant between homozygous twins, I know that I am not going to be able to find the correspondence describing equally important findings of the last twenty years. Why? Because we are not systematically archiving the electronic mail of our scholars. This is a classical example of where perfect is the enemy of good. There are myriad issues that have to be addressed if all such correspondence is to be stored and retrieved on demand. However, a few compromises make the task much simpler. I will review these in future entries but have no illusion, the libraries of today are almost all falling down on this job. A hundred years from now, historians will wonder why they can learn more about biomedical research, up close and personal, in the 1950's than in the archival black hole of 1990-2010.

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