The new Physical Archive of the Internet Archive officially launched over the weekend and IA Founder, Brewster Kahle, as written a fact filled overview about why there is a need to build a physical archive and then info about the new facility that’s located in Richmond, CA.
A reason to preserve the physical book that has been digitized is that it is the authentic and original version that can be used as a reference in the future. If there is ever a controversy about the digital version, the original can be examined. A seed bank such as the Svalbard Global Seed Vault is seen as an authoritative and safe version of crops we are growing. Saving physical copies of digitized books might at least be seen in a similar light as an authoritative and safe copy that may be called upon in the future.
As the Internet Archive has digitized collections and placed them on our computer disks, we have found that the digital versions have more and more in common with physical versions. The computer hard disks, while holding digital data, are still physical objects. As such we archive them as they retire after their 3-5 year lifetime. Similarly, we also archive microfilm, which was a previous generation’s access format. So hard drives are just another physical format that stores information. This connection showed us that physical archiving is still an important function in a digital era.
There is also a connection between digitized collections and physical collections. The libraries we scan in, rarely want more digital books than the digital versions that we scan from their collections. This struck us as strange until we better understood the craftsmanship required in putting together great collections of books, whether physical or digital. As we are archiving the books, we are carefully recording with the physical book what the identifier for the virtual version, and attaching information to the digital version of where the physical version resides.
Therefore we have determined that we will keep a copy of the books we digitize if they are not returned to another library. Since we are interested in scanning one copy of every book ever published, we are starting to collect as many books as we can.
Kahle’s blog post has a lot more info about the new Physical Archive and also included several photos.