“We believe the way to protect books is you hold them close, and the way you protect digital data is you give it away.”
(Doug Emery, an independent database handler, quoted in Mark Schrope, "Raiders of the Lost Text: What Secretes Lie in the World's Oldest Library?, The Washington Post Magazine, Sept. 9, 2012)
With the chance to study the monastery’s palimpsests, the experts hope to better understand whether there are discernible patterns in the decisions people made about what texts they scraped away. Sometimes monks brought in parchment that was already scraped; sometimes they did it themselves. Pages might have been chosen because the material on them wasn’t considered important, but selection could just as easily have meant that the monks thought they had enough copies of a particular text. In some cases, a single manuscript leaf might include three or more layers of text, all from different centuries. And sometimes pages from one scraped manuscript were taken apart and used in multiple other manuscripts, creating puzzles to be pieced back together." (Mark Schrope, "Raiders of the Lost Text: What Secretes Lie in the World's Oldest Library?, The Washington Post Magazine, Sept. 9, 2012) ).
"The program is Aldus Persuasion, and it was slideshow presentation program. They basically went out of business, because PowerPoint took over that marketplace." PowerPoint can't open his Persuasion files.
"My data is unreadable," he said.
In fact, so many computer formats have come and gone, they could fill a museum. And they do: The Computer History Museum in Silicon Valley.
Dag Spicer, the museum's senior curator, said, "There's a Pez museum, a Barbie museum, a mustard museum - why wouldn't you preserve the computer, which is maybe the most influential piece of technology in the last 100 years? (CBS News, Bye, Tech: Dealing With Data Rot, CBS Sunday Morning, March 4, 2009)
The foundation has supported interim upgrades to storage facilities now filled with bar-coded storage containers Father Justin scans with his iPad to check contents. Such work already stands as an example of what can be done — and what should be done — to protect ancient manuscripts.
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None of the political turmoil in Egypt has posed a direct threat to the monastery, which has survived other upheavals. “They’ve been there since the 6th century,” Toth says. “How many of these things have they gone through?”
Several tourists have been kidnapped en route to or from St. Catherine’s by Bedouins seeking attention during the government’s transition. These events, while taking a heavy toll on tourism, have remained relatively peaceful, with captors treating prisoners like guests and releasing them physically unharmed.
But preservation protects against trouble in many forms — including the accidental variety such as fires and water damage. Once digital images of documents are sufficiently distributed around the world, the information they contain becomes exponentially safer. (Mark Schrope, "Raiders of the Lost Text: What Secretes Lie in the World's Oldest Library?, The Washington Post Magazine, Sept. 9, 2012) ).