[SIGCIS-Members] Reading lost data

Matthew Kirschenbaum mkirschenbaum at gmail.com
Mon Feb 16 20:19:04 PST 2015

Relevant materials are also listed here in the syllabus for the class on
Born-Digital Materials we teach (almost) every summer at the Rare Book
School. (Christine, I heard you speak at the BL a while back; we should add
your excellent links):


Nonetheless, despite this body of material and a good deal more that's not
listed there, someone of Cerf's stature can still make news just by
pointing to the problem. The closest thing to a counter-example is the
recent publicity the Internet Archive has gotten for its vintage software
and game libraries, accessible via in-browser emulation:


For those who work with storage media themselves, see also BitCurator:


BitCurator is a Linux distribution packaging a number of open source
digital forensics tools, most of them aimed at disk image acquisition and

Best, Matt

On Sat, Feb 14, 2015 at 9:59 AM, Christine Finn <christine.finn at gmail.com>

> Hello,
> Good to see this is being discussed. It's a bit ancient in itself, but I
> talked about excavating hard drives, and the issue of how to read old data,
> in a chapter in Artifacts: an archaeologist's year in Silicon Valley (MIT
> Press 2001).
> There's a related paper, which I gave with Sellam Ismail at a computer and
> tech conf in Vienna that year: 'The Valley of Lost Data: Excavating Hard
> Drives and Floppy Discs'.
> It should be archived in proceedings online
> http://www.vintage.org/content.php?id=004
> The issue of lost data has preoccupied computer collectors for a long
> while. and I celebrate their forward-thinking in a chapter on Silicon
> Valley in the Oxford Handbook to the Archaeology of the Contemporary World
> (OUP, 2013) eds Harrison, Graves-Brown, Piccini.
> I also talk about it in a 4-episode BBC Radio 3 doc series, "It"s Big and
> it's Beautiful" about the rise of retro tech. It should be out there
> somewhere - on bit torrent?
> And the issue of lost manuscripts, especially with regard to writing
> future biographies, in a programme on BBC Radio 4, "Tales from the Digital
> Archive"http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b010m9sw
> all best, Christine
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Matthew Kirschenbaum
Associate Professor of English
Associate Director, Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities
University of Maryland
301-405-8505 or 301-314-7111 (fax)
http://mkirschenbaum.net and @mkirschenbaum on Twitter

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