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Personal Digital Archivists: The Next Member of the Celebrity Entourage

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The following is a guest post by Tess Webre, intern with NDIIPP at the Library of  Congress.

Upon reading a piece in February’s GQ (yes, I read GQ; sometimes I have to go to the dentist), I came across a piece about a certain celebrity’s extensive archive with nary a mention of the archivist’s name. I thought they deserved some fan press as they are doing something I had not thought possible: being a celebrity’s personal digital archivist.

Awesome, by Sam Howzit, on Flickr

In an era where every celebrity is expected to have social media consultants, yogis, personal assistants, pet groomers and every other kind of service in their entourage, there is a noticeable lack of archivists.  Why is that? Everyone has records, everyone has data that they want to ensure is saved for the long term.

The answer might be in the reaction to the news of this archive. In one instance, it’s described as hoarding, another as vanity.  The perception might be that a celebrity who would spend the kind of time and money to have an ever-present archive and hire an archivist could be perceived as completely self-absorbed, but this is not the case. It is true, that this personal archive will be much more extensive than mine, but I’ve never been on the cover of a magazine. In reality, this is just getting the digital house in order. It is difficult not to view these as aspersions on digital archiving in general and I hope to make some corrections.

It is commendable that this celebrity has taken responsibility for her own digital assets and it should be viewed as an act of empowerment. She wishes to control the destiny of her records and understands the work necessary for this. The employment of her digital archivist proves that maintenance of digital materials is a worthwhile investment professionally and personally. The employment proves that applying standards, such as climate control, has a positive impact on the longevity of the data and should not be limited to the large institutions. The employment proves that if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well, and personal digital preservation is no exception.

This is not a lone instance of celebrities venturing into the world of digital preservation and taking responsibility for their data. In a recent documentary, Keanu Reeves addresses the future accessibility of digital movies. Salmon Rushdie created a stir when he gave old computers to the Emory Archives. The acceptance and understanding of personal digital preservation is growing, and as such, we should expect more examples of it in the celebrity world.

To the celebrity personal digital archivist, I wanted to thank you for your service to the archives profession in general and digital archives in particular. As a celebrity digital archivist there is a responsibility to prove that this is a good investment.  The more your employers make use of the archives and the more public their support of personal digital archiving, the more likely this will become a lasting trend.  It must be assured that the personal digital archivist becomes the next must-have accessory to show that archivists don’t have to exist in the basement of some large institution, but on the red carpet.

I believe you will succeed in your task of ensuring this.  You are providing an important service as a pioneer and I salute you.

Until next time, I wish you all safe data.


Comments (2)

  1. As a subscriber of said magazine, I now feel a pressing need to go back and look for aforementioned article (and if it means sifting through stories about Beyonce Knowles and Jessica Alba, well, I suppose some sacrifices simply must be made).

  2. Whoa! This article was wayyyyy ahead of its time. Just to catch you up the archivist is totally proving that this is a good investment. There have been some awesome documentaries and concert DVDs (with BTS footage) released since you published this and I don’t think it would have come together so seamlessly without the archivist.

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