On April 02, 2012, I published short article at http://goo.gl/EiGlu that quoted David McMillen of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. McMillen questioned the need to keep originals of museum and archives materials. He wrote, in part:
Technology has long been able to create images that were indistinguishable from the original. We have on display in the Public Vaults a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation that is disturbingly difficult to distinguish from the real document. Our specialists routinely make copies of important documents that take an expert to discern from the original.
I question McMillen's broad inclusion of museums. However, if he limited his comments only to documents, I might agree with him, especially documents of less than mass appeal. While nobody would ever consider destroying the Declaration of Independence, millions of other documents (immigration records, citizenship applications, census records, military pension applications, Congressional records, and more) would seem to be candidates for digital replacements.
The original article generated a lot of comments from newsletter readers. Many of those comments seemed to miss David McMillen's main point. I am guessing that McMillen received a lot of feedback, much of it negative. Now McMillen has written a follow-up article in the National Archives blog that further clarifies and explains his ideas. He differentiates between every-day working documents of our government versus those documents of iconic value.
You can read David McMillen's latest article at http://blogs.archives.gov/online-public-access/?p=7852.
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