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The internet not only makes it possible to preserve memories, objects and ideas from the past in digital format, but also means these then become accessible to all. We meet Meg who is having her personal memories of the Second World War, which would otherwise have died with her, recorded for a heritage website. The Imperial War Museum in London is investing large sums of money to get their collections online, and discovering that there are unforeseen benefits to electronic archives. But with emails, digital photos and blogs replacing letters, photo albums and diaries, what are the implications for future historians? We visit an innocuous trailer-sized storage facility in California, which is the internet archive.
First broadcast:
16 March 2010

Classroom Ideas

This clip could be used to prompt classroom discussion on the importance of preserving the past for future generations. How is digital media changing the world of museums and archiving? Should original items (books, letters, photos) still be kept in physical form, even after they have had digital copies made? Not everything can be kept, so who should decide what can be saved and what should be destroyed? Do you think about the information you put on social networking sites and how it can be archived? Does the new-found ease of producing an archive result in an invaluable diverse resource or is there scope for biased postings from members of particular interest groups? How will the historian of the future research life today?

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