by Dave Kellam

During the past thirty years, writers have shifted from typewriters or pen and paper to word processors, adding a new layer of complexity to the tradition of archiving their work. Emory obtained Salman Rushdie’s archives, including notebooks, photographs, manuscripts, and a number of old computers. In The Author’s Desktop, Emory Magazine details the effort put into preserving his work for both academics and the general public. Rushdie’s archives were relatively easy to access, but others can prove much more difficult:

A particular challenge, she says, is that technology may have moved beyond the hardware or software artifacts in an author’s archive. For example, working parts may be difficult to find for a broken, early model computer, disks might be unable to be read, programs the author used might be outdated (think eight-track tapes without an eight-track tape player).

It’s not just hardware, software formats change too. The team had to do a lot of file conversions to make the documents available on modern systems. The files will probably need to be upgraded again and again. We could end up with the modern version of the transcription errors that occurred as scribes copied out manuscripts.

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