What information and artifacts are worth preserving for future generations?
How is this best accomplished?
Who decides what to preserve?
What technical means should be employed?
What kind of continuing support is needed to preserve information?
Who will pay for this continuing support?
The above questions interest me. In the past, publishers and sometimes families decided what to preserve, and libraries did the actual preservation. Yet as more people generate more information, the amount to preserve has increased, and the sheer bulk is a problem. Digitization seems to be a partial solution, combined with the development of search engines to ferret out just what is needed. But even someone using search engines can be overwhelmed by junk. Who decides what to save, and usefully organizes the information?
It seems to me that whoever generates information should organize it and decide what to keep, and should also pay for its preservation. To preserve information for an indefinite period, this payment has to be in the form of an endowment, or upfront payment. The value of the endowment must keep pace with inflation, and its yield each year must be enough to cover the maintenance costs of the archive.
In 2005 I explored this approach on a practical level by starting a company that promised to preserve its clients' personal websites indefinitely for an upfront fee of $2,400. This fee would be used (after payment of sizeable corporate income taxes) to set up endowments as described above. The target market was middle-aged individuals who have created personal or family websites. After beating the bushes for a month, we found very few people interested in this service. Either the fee was too high or people did not care or just did not want to think about what would happen to their old pictures and diaries when they died.
Since I would like to know more about my ancestors, I reasoned that at least some of my descendants would like to know something about me, my wife, my father, etc. So together with several others, I set up a trust called the Arkhold Trust to fund the continuing maintenance of this and other websites. I won't be around to see how it works, but knowing it exists has already prompted me to put more energy into organizing my information.