Before It's Too Late - Archiving What We (Don't) Care About

05 Apr, 2016

Before It's Too Late - Archiving What We (Don't) Care About

Last month founder Brewster Kahle came to speak at UC Berkeley on the importance of preserving human information, especially fleeting Internet material. Together with BCNM director Greg Niemeyer, Kahle engaged in a mini-archivist project which highlights the need for comprehensive and pro-active archivism.

During his visit, Kahle asked Niemeyer about his favorite book. Niemeyer's favorite, LTI - Lingua Tertii Imperii, was published by Victor Klemperer in 1947 and explores how Nazi propaganda and use of language was able to rapidly change German culture and instill a new worldview. Despite its wide reaching implications, the book was not translated into English until 2000. Kahle speculated that there might be an online English translation of the seminal text in the Internet archive. Sure enough, a translation made by David Greenbaum in the late 90's when he was at Cornell appeared, only the links on the webpage were inactive. Although two official English translations and a documentary film have since been made, Greenbaum's incomplete edition remains possibly the only open-source English translations and one of the first.

Greenbaum's site had been taken down by Cornell. With the help of Greg Niemeyer and, Greenbaum's work was again hosted online and found a way to read the now ancient WordPerfect files in which the original text was written. Greenbaum's restored work was then preserved in the archive.

Niemeyer points out that had it not been for his interest in LTI, this little part of literary history would have simply disappeared. Niemeyer stressed that people archive what they care about, but if people wait until this point to archive information, in the digital age these items may already no longer exist. Groups like are therefore of vital importance, as they attempt to record the Internet, without a specific focus, so that people in the future can return and re-discover what today might seem inconsequential.