In conversation with an academic last week, I learned that solicitors’ informal notes on cases are disappearing from contemporary archives of these materials because of the shift from writing these notes using pen and paper to storing this information electronically. In this digital age, we are all more aware of the implications of keeping data about other people, and how this could be revealed to them in future. The consequences of recording unofficial information about a person can be considerable, so those of us involved in recruitment (as well as lawyers), are often careful to make a record only of the final, official decisions on a matter.
Drafts and edits are lost if only the final version of a document is kept. Does this matter? In many cases, probably not; but I expect it will make the work of future biographers and memoir-writers more difficult as this informal layer of revision and annotation is removed from the record we leave behind of our work.
The cost of e-storage is now so low, it’s tempting to keep all work-related files in case they come in handy. However, without a catalogue, controlled vocabulary, and organisation or structure, what use could they be to anyone in the future? Deciding what to delete is just as important as choosing what to keep.
Michael McIntyre’s “Man Drawer” sketch shows the same problem in a domestic context