Tuesday, November 24, 2015         


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It's all happening on the Web, but what about after Monday?

By Richard Borreca


There are forms and facts, news releases, videos, charts and tables all up on the Web at Hawaii.gov for anyone to see.

Cheery pictures of Gov. Linda Lingle with excited kids at the Maui County Fair; Lingle with the state employee of the year; earnest reports on the state's energy conservation efforts -- they are all up on the Web.

The state budget numbers, the state audits, the reports and memos, from tax collections to lists of state works of art, are all whirling around in cyberspace.

It is a galaxy of interconnected hyperlinks existing in state-maintained Web servers.

What happens on Monday when at noon the governor of Hawaii is Neil Abercrombie?

Susan Shaner is the state archivist and she spends much of her time worrying about just that.

Where do old government Web pages go when the administration changes? What Web pages are being kept? What about the governor's e-mail?

If it's a state record, it must be preserved, according to state law.

"We think in terms of forever, so with electronic information keeping it forever is very difficult. You have to migrate to whatever is the new system," Shaner reports.

Just sticking everything on a hard drive and tucking it into a file cabinet won't work. Fifty years from now no one may even remember file cabinets and we certainly won't have hard drives. To an archivist thinking about preservation, 50 years from now is just another page on a calendar stretching out forever.

"For the time being we are trying to borrow space from other agencies to set up digital archives; we are trying to get all the records," Shaner says.

The real problem is that all the state Web pages are linked together, so that one Web page will send you off to another page in another part of the Web. It is sort of like reading this column and then being told that the conclusion of it is in Midweek. But, for the Web, it is much more complicated.

"You have links everywhere. Not only do we have to save the records, we have to save the links," said Shaner, who didn't disagree when this reporter suggested that just trying to think about that made his head hurt.

Shaner and crew won a grant to study the problem and are supposed to have some answers next month. The National Historical Publications and Records Commission study will give Hawaii both a blueprint on how to start preserving data and also estimates on what it would cost to implement.

Already the state archives have posted 250,000 records on the state archive Web page (hawaii.gov/dags/archives) and have another 250,000 awaiting tagging so they can be easily searched.

Happily, Shaner is not leaving with the administration change, although she could retire.

"I set this system up and I want to see it through," she said.

For the record, Abercrombie's spokeswoman reports that they are preparing new Web pages. As for Lingle, Shaner said the governor's office is helping by printing out all her e-mail.


Richard Borreca writes on politics every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. Reach him at rborreca@staradvertiser.com.

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