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Jeremy Leighton John, Department of Manuscripts, British Library, London

"Digital Manuscripts: capturing scientific information and the historical moment by adapting existing scientific techniques"

This talk briefly discusses the concept of digital manuscripts, compares these with conventional manuscripts, and highlights possible implications for archival work today and in the future. An archival life cycle is outlined for ‘born digital’ unpublished writings, data and workings on computer media, incorporating a tripartite approach to capturing, retaining and presenting the information for curators and researchers. In particular three forms of access to personal digital files are advocated: (i) initial access with a pragmatic but certified digital examination tool, (ii) style-retaining high-fidelity access with restoration and emulation of obsolete legacy hardware and software, and (iii) archival access with digital facsimiles, metadata and machine knowledge. Thoughts on cataloguing and description will be briefly mentioned. Much of the talk is devoted to indicating how some techniques and technologies can be usefully borrowed and modified from existing scientific disciplines: computer forensic science, ancestral computing and emulation, and bioinformatics and evolutionary science. In this wide-ranging, sometimes complex and often inherently urgent activity, diverse cooperative alliances are likely to be essential – cooperation with other archivists and their institutions, university and institutional researchers, and amateur and professional experts.