Economist Joseph Schumpeter popularised the term ‘creative destruction’ to describe the theory that technological advances make obsolete not just individual practices but whole philosophies, industries and ways of life.
We can find evidence for this idea in the historical record: for example, we can trace the ancestry of computing back through the development of punched-card textile looms in the 18th and 19th centuries. During the industrial revolution, weavers found their industry and way of life being disrupted by technological advances.
Reflecting on the challenge of digital records, what does creative destruction mean for our archival practice? What do archivists need to do to make sure we are not rendered obsolete by rampant technological change?
One option might be leave the challenge of digital archiving to another profession, or rely on another, newer kind of memory institution to figure out how to manage digital archiving. However, at The National Archives we believe that archivists are best placed to curate and sustain digital archives, so long as we embrace the disruption. (You can read more about our plans – and our intention to be disruptive – in our digital strategy.)
There is a strong argument that digital archives grown from within established archives, like ours, are best equipped to develop the new capabilities we need to preserve digital records. Continue reading »