Just spent another splendid day on the 7th floor of VPL, wrestling information from the microfilmed vaults of the “News-Advertizer“. I’ll spend the evening doing the same with “The World” which i can access online. In both cases, we are tiptoeing, day by day, through the very birth of modern Grandview — Grandview phase 2, perhaps — in the spring of 1904.
It’s grunt work but great fun as each petition for a street opening, or a sidewalk, or a water connection, each auction of lots, each building permit slowly builds the streetscape of roads and spaces, more or less, that we know today. And there is a real pleasure for me to follow the trail of a simple piece of work from first request through the approval process and ending up with a mark in the foreman’s report for expenditures.
As all data moves inexorably from the accessible and irrefutable page to the leaky and inexpressible cloud, we have to make sure that we can, when future histories are written, still follow that trail and access the documents through proliferating electronic databases and systems, many of which become opaque with age. It certainly should not just be the government storing all this data — which they do; Is Google (et al) the guarantor of accessibility in the future? If so, is that OK?