Keeping a record

This morning’s Observer column.

A few months ago, I went to an intriguing talk given by Lorcan Dempsey, who is a leading authority on the role of libraries in the digital world. One of the slides in his presentation really made me sit up. The context was an account of how different academic libraries are going about the archiving of digital material. The slide in question focused on Emory University, a wealthy, private research university in Atlanta, Georgia. Like many such institutions, it has been buying up the papers of well-known writers and already has a fine collection of Irish scribblers in its archives. But it also has the papers of Salman Rushdie and this was the subject of the slide that startled me.

Why? Because it showed that Emory’s Rushdie archive included not only the writer’s papers, but also his old computers and hard drives. And there, on the slide, was the symbol for an old Apple Macintosh computer and in its directory listing was a folder entitled, simply, “My Money”. And at that moment, if you will forgive the pun, the penny dropped…

There are also some good (critical) comments by readers.