IN case you did not know, a forest fire does not destroy everything in its path, despite the fearsome sight. Several plant species such as eucalyptus and pine are specially adapted to encourage the spread of a fire, by producing flammable oils. Although a forest fire destroys non-adapted plants, it causes the spread of others, for the next cycle of growth to begin.
The fire that destroyed the Folk Research Centre (FRC) on Mount Plaisance on Sunday night may have severely hampered our efforts to maintain survivable copies of national cultural treasures. Despite the loss of irreplaceable cultural material, the founding director Monsignor Patrick Anthony offered words of encouragement that all was not lost, and that the FRC would live on. Such silvery words of hope and encouragement, reminded this author of lessons in silviculture, where forests display great resilience in surviving after a fire.
Anyone operating a computer system, and transacting business, would recognise the need to maintain records, and protect these records from loss or damage. Those who operate with paper-based records are at greater risk, and should take urgent steps to protect these records.
Imagine losing the following important documents:
1) Land registry records;
2) Civil registry and legal records;
3) National archives;
4) Health records;
5) Banking records.
Each would represent a blow to our usual way of life, based on the loss of historical context. The loss of primary material should always be safeguarded, especially if copies are not deemed acceptable for transactions. Just consider how damaging it would be if your original documents were submitted as part of an application, and subsequently destroyed in a fire? Would you still get the loan or the judgement without even having original documents anymore?
Father Anthony was correct, in observing that “we need to get our priorities straight”, especially with preserving the history of our nation. After digitising our records, we also need to safely backup that work.
It is ironic that we are in the budget season, where government priorities are championed and funds allocated. It would be interesting to observe if the fire somehow rekindled an interest in the preservation of our national treasures, and caused the appropriate monies to be made available for such work.
The quality that makes certain items valuable, such as their fragility, uniqueness, and surrounding context should not be overlooked. We should hope for a pleasant outcome after this damaging fire, and do right by the former denizens of Mount Plaisance. They hold the seeds to our cultural history.
To share your views, contact the author at: www.datashore.net or via The VOICE.
About the Author
Dr. Lyndell St. Ville is an ICT Consultant offering expertise in systems design and analysis.