fwd: Electronics vs Paper

Thu Sep 18 14:24:28 CDT 1997

I think this argument gets way too focussed on the media and misses the
fact that the social-environmental context is what enables ANY medium to
preserve (transmit) information effectively across any significant span of
time.  The paper based medium functions only because it is set within the
systems of libraries and universities that are supported by societies.
Paper has been cost effective over the last 1,000+ years because people
take care of books/journals (don't let them rot), make them physically
available to interested readers, re-print them (at significant cost) when
demand is great enough or the integrity of unique item is threatened, and
photocopy them when a replicate is needed.  We pay publishers and printers,
build libraries, hire librarians and indexers, etc., etc.  A huge social
infrastructure has been developed to manage information in the paper
medium.  A functionally equivalent infrastructure will have to be (is
being!) developed to make digital media functionally equivalent to paper.
But it will happen.

More the point about material examined:  What we want to record is that
particular specimens were examined and formed the basis of a particular
publication (or statements about the world).  This relationship should be
discoverable as one browses or queries from at least two (perhaps three)
  the specimen -- who else has looked at and said anything about this
  the publication -- what specimens was this based on?
  (the person -- what specimens/papers has he/she examined/written?)

At present, the most common practice has been to include lists of material
examined in publications.  It is becoming more common for collection
catalogs/databases to record the titles and authors of publications that
cite contained specimens -- the publication does change the status of the
specimen in some way and collection managers/curators need to be aware of
that.  In the absence of a universally followed practice, redundancy is
required for information to be preserved:  material examined lists need to
be preserved, either in papers or in an electronic repository based on
publications; and authors should send reprints to collection managers of
all relevant materials so that the special status can be recorded with the


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Stanley D. Blum
Department of Natural Sciences
Bishop Museum
1525 Bernice St.
Honolulu, HI 96817
Tel: 808-848-4173
Fax: 808-847-8252

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