Monday, November 09, 2009

Sustainable Access

In library, museum and archival circles there appears to be a conflicting dichotomy between Access and Preservation: between the goal of using rare materials and the goal of keeping them from being damaged. Professionals see these goals as two sides of the same coin, but patrons encountering limited or no allowable access might view preservation measures as "hiding things away so no one can ever see them."

In actually, preservation is nothing more than a long-term access strategy. Or to put it another way, the dichotomy is between ensuring both short-term access and long-term access. We want things to be accessed and used, of course, but also need to provide for access and use in the near and distant future. It is a continuum of access over time that I've taken to calling "Sustainable Access." We want to sustain the same level of access and use over an unspecified length of time and employ preservation methods to this end.

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