Digital Artefacts

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The world of historical preservation has some interesting data challenges. Volunteers rush to accurately scan and upload ruins so they can be recreated far away from the wars that surround them. There's a battle for ownership of data on museum pieces, with some people pirating historical artefacts for 3D printing (or claiming they are), making a mockery of all the hard work that went into looting antiquity in the first place. And just last month a castle in Spain was restored from a faulty backup, seeing large swathes of the original data overwritten with NULLs.

Which is by way of saying - historical preservation is now a part-digital affair, with metadata, 3D scans, and all sorts of additional information being part and parcel of the drive to preserve history, and it looks a lot like the issues you see with data gathering and preservation in any other field. As Cosmo Wenman points out though, the provenance of the data is of vital importance in work of this sort, and another way for museums and historians to preserve the past and educate us about it. Inaccuracies here are as antithetical to purpose as they would be in your production database. Unless you already work in a museum though, data loss to you probably doesn't mean losing the last vestiges of a civilization (though it can definitely feel like it at the time).

It's interesting to see disciplines that were purely physical become more data-driven, and the opportunities and challenges that come with that - museums in particular are clearly struggling to balance their remit to teach with their need for proprietary data and a school of thought that sees ownership of information lie with the institution, as in the case of the Nefertiti bust. Even so, there are surely some fascinating challenges out there for information designers and DBAs.

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