U5.4.3 Digitise – Choosing to retain or discard

Once an item has been digitised the critical question arises – “should I keep this or should I dispose of it?”. It’s critical because when you get rid of a physical object you are getting rid of many characteristics which cannot be experienced with the digital object (see U3.4 – the choice between physical and digital).

Sometimes, the initial motivation to undertake the OFC project may have been to get rid of a load of stuff in which case you may be more inclined to dispose of things than to keep them. On the other hand, sometimes the objects you are dealing with are things you feel a great deal of affinity for and which you have had for a long time. In this case, you may find it difficult to dispose of some of these things. Regardless of which of these positions you are in, it’s always worth remembering these two things:

  • When you take a decision to destroy something that you’ve digitised, you can take heart that its digital counterpart will still be there for you to look and enjoy.
  • With a hybrid collection containing just a few physical examples, the clutter of the physical can be eliminated while still retaining some examples of the physical for their special properties to be enjoyed.

Even with these two thoughts in mind, you may find it helpful to have some clear rationale for making such decisions – as described in the ‘Excluding items’ section of U5.3.  You may get some ideas for what such rationale might be from the following list of types of physical items that were retained in a memento collection (as reported in a broader study of the intrinsic value of physical objects):

  • Items for which only the originals confirm their validity
  • Trophy items to be collected and enjoyed in the future
  • Publications with fixed spine bindings and/or special papers
  • Publications which mention, friends, colleagues or the Owner
  • Items published by an organisation or programme that the Owner works/worked for
  • Items that the Owner has written, produced, assembled or made a significant contribution to
  • Physical features which make it difficult to digitise the item and/or to reconstruct it from the digital copy
  • Items illustrating a physical form due to a development in technology
  • Items of an age that provides a quality of uniqueness
  • Items possessing aesthetic or artistic quality including photos
  • Items that the Owner wants to keep as mementos of his and her life
  • Items that you want to have easy access for showing to others
  • Items that do not belong to the Owner

Of course, these are just a few of the possible reasons for keeping physical objects. The key is to understand what your own reasons are and to apply those reasons consistently.

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