An honorable dilemma

I’ve got an interesting dilemma on my hands, but I think it’s the right kind of dilemma to have.

Here’s the story:

Two seniors in the theatre department were both awarded honors this spring for projects they completed using WordPress blogs. They used the blogs as a substitute for the old-school journal they used to keep while tracking their work in a production. Kudos to the department chair, Gregg Stull, for being completely open to the potential of a blog environment for capturing and presenting this kind of activity. And, of course, congratulations to both Jenna and Peter for achieving honors.

Now, here’s the dilemma. Students who are awarded honors are asked to submit a bound copy of their work to the library by the end of the semester for placement in special collections. Hmmm. . . can you see where we’re going?

Luckily, I’ve got a fantastic group of librarians at UMW who are ready and eager to have a conversation about how to approach this challenge. But, before I got much furhter in the conversation, I thought I’d throw this out to my VAST readership and ask for some feedback.

Here are some possible solutions I can come up with:

  • Have the students print out every page from the blog and bind it. One word: YUCK
  • Find some way to back-up the blog in it’s current entire form to digital media (CD) and deliver that to the library. Eh, this one isn’t doing much for me either
  • Backup just the raw “data” of the blog and deliver that to the library. That’s kind of a dumb suggestion, so I’m not sure why I’m throwing it in there. It would serve almost no purpose to someone coming along to the library later to do research, but it does get at the heart of the question about what it is we’re trying to archive: data?, an online experience?, an ephemeral work-in-progress?
  • Work with the library to come up with a solution that allows an item to be archived by it’s URL and then hope that we can maintain that address. One problem with this approach is that it’s possible that a student might want to keep working in the blog space (although I’m not sure that’s likely in these two cases), and then as time progresses we lose the sense of the “object” in it’s current form, representing the work they’ve completed up to this point

So this is the part of the post where I remind everyone that I’m not a librarian, so I’m probably missing all sorts of nuances to this question. That’s why I’m looking forward to hearing your feedback and talking at greater length with actual librarians about this.