Digging up computing histories in literary manuscript collections
Writer J. M. Coetzee’s early poetry is almost undecipherable. That’s because it was written in computer code.
Coetzee’s global reputation rests on his literary output, for which he received a Nobel Prize in 2003. Before he embarked on a career as a scholar and writer, the South African–born writer was a computer programmer in the early years of the industry’s development (1962–1965). I believe that this experience, while short, was vital for the development of Coetzee’s writerly project. While visiting the Ransom Center on a research fellowship, I examined Coetzee’s papers, which offer tantalizing clues about his neglected “other career.” [Read more…] about The computer poetry of J. M. Coetzee’s early programming career
In 2011, Ransom Center Digital Archivist Gabriela Redwine, with Assistant Director Megan Barnard, invited an international team of colleagues to engage in a series of conversations about how born-digital materials are acquired and transferred to archival repositories. Ten archivists and curators from the Beinecke Library at Yale University; the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford; the British Library; the Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library at Emory University (MARBL); and the Rubenstein Library at Duke University joined with the Ransom Center to create the report Born Digital: Guidance for Donors, Dealers, and Archival Repositories, which offers recommendations to help ensure the physical and intellectual well being of digital media and files during different stages of the acquisition process.
A draft of Born Digital has been published with MediaCommons Press, an online publisher that allows readers to offer feedback via an easy-to-use commenting interface. The authors of the report encourage manuscript dealers, writers, special collections professionals, and other custodians of archival materials to read the report, offer feedback and suggestions, and take part in a discussion with the larger community of individuals concerned about the acquisition and preservation of born-digital materials. The authors will closely review comments posted by readers and carefully consider this feedback when they revise Born Digital for final publication in the coming months.
The main body of the report surveys the primary issues and concerns related to born-digital acquisitions and is intended for a broad audience with varying levels of interest and expertise in the subject. Appendices provide information about how to prepare for the unexpected and possible staffing costs to repositories, as well as ready-to-use checklists that incorporate recommendations from throughout the report. These recommendations are not meant to be universal and do not necessarily reflect the official policies of the authors’ institutions. Rather, they offer broad, useful guidance for donors, dealers, and repository staff involved in the acquisition and transfer of born-digital materials.