Monday, February 14, 2011

RootsTech Keynote Speaker Archiving and Preserving Everything

Brewster Kahle was the Saturday keynote speaker at RootsTech“The opportunity of our generation is to put information online,” said Brewster Kahle during his RootsTech keynote address. Kahle is the founder of the über-awesome Internet Archive and Open Library.

“Will our descendants know out story?” asked Kahle. We can take our personal “box-o-stuff” and preserve it. Images can be digitized for about 25 cents apiece. Super 8, 8, and 16 millimeter family movies cost about $200 per hour to digitize. Digitizing audio disks costs about $10 per disk and $10 per hour.

Kahle said that digitizing all published material and making it available online for the benefit of all mankind is within our grasp.

He said that the text in a book takes about one megabyte to store. That means the text of all 26 million books in the Library of Congress would fit in a shopping cart. Digitizing that much data is within our grasp, he said. Audio disks (about 2 to 3 million CDs, LPs, and 45s) and moving images (about 100,000 films) are also doable.

The Internet Archive is also working on more problematic content: television, software, and websites. “The average web page lasts only 100 days,” he said. Copies of many old websites, including all the defunct geocities website, can be found using the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.

Each day the Internet Archive scans 1,000 books and 200 microfilm and fiche. They have 23 scanning centers in six countries. They welcome volunteers and probably have a center near you.

One of the Internet Archive scanning centers is at the Egyptian Library of Alexandria. During the recent rioting, people circled the library hand-in-hand to protect it.

The youth of Egypt join hand in hand to protect the Library of Alexandria
Kahle shared the news that during the recent demonstrations the
youth of Egypt had joined hand in hand to protect the Library of Alexandria.

To make texts available to people without web access, Internet Archive Bookmobiles are visiting schools, parks, and public places where public domain books can be printed and bound for a dollar. That is cheaper than a library’s cost to lend a book.

Eric Eldred with an Internet Archive bookmobile was kicked out of the Walden Pond 
Reservation by the Massachusetts state park service for giving away free copies of
Thoreau's public domain book, Walden. Rangers said it competed with their book shop.

The Internet Archive currently has over 2.5 million book and text items online. They have published images for all the U.S. census and New York immigration records.

“Part of the responsibility of our generation,” said Kahle, “is to put the best that we have to offer within reach of our children.”

Brewster Kahle is certainly doing his part.


  1. I watched Mr. Wincher from home and found his comments timely. Every genealogy society and all local and state archives and libraries should make it "required viewing." We need to get out in front of this train and it can only serve us well. There is such a great opportunity to help inform, entertain and educate in the area of genealogy and family history. We need to gather together rather than operate singly. Just imagine what we could accomplish and all those we could reach. So the big question is "where do we go from here?"

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  3. I'm turning off comments to this post because it is getting spammed by a "Keynote Speaker" organization.