Digital files are increasingly replacing physical documents. So how are councils preserving their data?
Imagine if there were no council records of community events in the 1940s because no one thought to preserve them. Or if the 1911 census was written in a language people could no longer read. It would leave a gaping chasm in our cultural knowledge, and make it difficult for historians to build an accurate picture of the past.
A similar blank spot could face historians of the future when they study life in the early 21st century. But it won’t because of missing paper documents. “Where once leaflets, brochures, programmes and newsletters would be available, now this information may only be found on the web – and this is often ephemeral in nature,” explains Sam Johnston, county archivist at the Dorset History Centre. “Websites are not permanent and once taken down or changed they are often lost.”