So Wednesday morning I checked my email to find a message from Scott Shane, a reporter for the New York Times. Could I give him a call for a piece he is writing? On the phone Shane explained he is doing a story--building off the current Hillary Clinton email brouhaha--about how the move to digital communications will change how historians do their work. "I spoke to Dolores Kearnes Goodwin and Robert Dallek and thought I would call you for your opinion," he said.
We had a fun talk. Shane had come across a blog post of mine, Open Letter to the Historians of the 22nd Century: Sorry for All the Stuff. The short version of that post is that I argue against a prevailing idea that the inevitable loss of electronic records will mean a digital dark age for future historians. Far more likely they will be overwhelmed with data. I endeavored to be as sound-bitey as possible, remaking the same points as in the blog post.
So here is the story: Awash in Information, Historians Fear Loss of Rich Material. I knew going in that at best a snippet of what I said in our 20-30 minutes of conversation would end up in the story, and so it was:
Larry Cebula, a digital archivist for the State of Washington who teaches history at Eastern Washington University, apologized in a semiserious blog post to historians of the next century for 'all the stuff.' If Thomas Jefferson were alive, he wrote, he might be commenting on his friends’ Facebook pages and posting photographs to Instagram.
"I think historians a century from now will view this period as a time of an explosion of records,' Mr. Cebula said. 'Even if Facebook is out of business, someone will have bought the archive."
Shane also linked to my blog post, which was nice. He did not quote the one line I really had hoped he would use, where I called Goodwin and Dallek silly for their belief that the loss of hand-written letters doomed future historians to write superficial histories. I so wanted to be quoted in The Paper of Record calling Dolores Kearnes Goodwin "silly." My academic friends on Facebook took exception to the "Mr. Cebula" part, sharing one of my favorite quotes from the Austin Powers films.
And so ends my 15 minutes of near-fame. It has been a good week, media-wise, with a flattering puff-piece in the local paper on Sunday and quoted in the New York Times on Thursday. I believe I will enjoy a double bourbon just now.