Should Old Documents Be Preserved Electronically?

A few days ago at work, I had the opportunity to work with some very old documents. Usually in data entry, when you have a client that wants something scanned and recorded into a computer system, you have to first prep the documents. This means taking staples out, mending holes in paper with tape, and stamping to make sure no document gets missed.

The documents were over a hundred years old and so, instead of the usual staples we were used to, they had been skewered with metal brackets, and taped and threaded and in our interest in prepping these documents for preservation, we basically had to destroy them.

I felt bad about it, which is why I’m writing about it now. I like to collect antique books, so any document to me that is old and dusty is a treasure, and more than likely full of history of some kind…if not a history of its own.

So, it broke my heart a bit, that in the interest of scanning, and preserving something, (at least technologically,) here we were cutting, tearing, taping, and ripping apart old bindings, and taking apart of a piece of history that seemed better left on its own.

I don’t understand the need to scan something into thin air if you have something to touch and smell, a piece of evidence to a piece of history long forgotten. Now, I’m not saying that these old documents were anything of value, but I feel like anything in the past has at least some value. At least to me.

Many of the documents had been worn down with time, which made them hard to read when you were sitting in front of them, what makes putting them into a computer any better?

Perhaps with more careful prep work, old documents in other companies don’t get the abuse that they did in mine. Maybe they have better tools than we do, I don’t know.

Anyway, it has just been something that has been bugging me the last few days. Call me crazy, but I like antique documents and it kind of broke my heart a bit to see them so mistreated.

Do you think that in the interest of preserving antiques, either documents or something else, that we actually destroy them?

Just something to think about.

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