Curating Our Cultural History

EconTalk Extra
by Amy Willis
You're a Poet...We DID Know It... Kevin Kelly on the Inevitable...

How will our memories be experienced by future generations? How much of our cultural memory is "owed" to them? And why on earth would the Library of Congress be interested in preserving years worth of tweets??? These were among the topics of conversations in this week's episode in which EconTalk host Russ Roberts talked with archivist and historian Abby Smith Rumsey about how we experience memories of the past, and how we might preserve them for the future.

This episode got me thinking a lot about what my grandchildren might make of EconTalk, among other memories and experiences I hold dear. Can I ensure that they will experience them? How do I know they will find any value in them? As always, we'd like to hear whay you took away from this week's conversation. Let us know; we love to hear from you!


1. What sorts of memories (personal and/or cultural) are you most concerned with preserving for the future? How will you ensure they are preserved?

2. What does Rumsey mean when she says that "really good memory requires the art of forgetting?" Is she right?

3. Do we have a moral obligation to preserve our digital memories for the next generation, as Rumsey suggests? Why?

4. Rumsey asserts that we must rely on forward-thinking institutions for the care and handling of our digital memories. Assuming this is true, who should be charged with running such institutions.

Bonus: (Yes, we have more books we're happy to part with!) Choose one of Michel de Montaigne's essays that speaks to you. Which one did you choose, and what do you think it has to say about the experience of life and the preservation of memory? I'll post my own reflections in a later post as well so let's read & reflect together!

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TWITTER: Follow Russ Roberts @EconTalker

COMMENTS (1 to date)
Rajanikant Mohan writes:

This e-con talk interview reminded of the challenges archaeologists are having deciphering the Indus Valley script.

Now think of an online scanned archive of a book from today being deciphered 5000 years from now. It will have multiple levels of encoding.

The text is scanned into an image. The image will be encoded into binary and compressed. To add to the confusion, there will be file descriptors which need to be stripped. And to cap it all, the archaeologists will have no idea she is trying to put-together an image!!! All this, assuming that the binary files are recovered somehow...

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