Preserving our efforts for the future – how can I safeguard my “literary legacy”?

Yesterday I asked what the future is likely to be for private websites, in a much more regulated internet dominated by corporations and their lawyers.  This led me to consider what will happen to my own literary legacy – rather too grand a term! – when the time comes.  The preservation strategies of yesterday – mirroring and free availability – are unlikely to work any more.

It’s hard to say how much of what I have written will still be of value in 20 years.  But one area that will definitely hold its value is the translations of ancient texts that I have published over the years.  Some were made and donated by others.  Some I commissioned.  Some I did myself.  A few were done as online collaborations.

In every case no translation existed in English when “mine” was made.  In some cases a translation has come along since, but mostly they remain the only English translation ever made.  There are advantages to being a pioneer!  So these things are likely to be useful for the foreseeable future.

When I die, my domain names will vanish and my websites will go offline.  The master copies exist locally on my hard disk and backup drives, but these will no doubt be erased by my executors.

It’s not easy to see what to do.  I’ve just done a couple of Google searches, but these have mainly produced rubbish.

Possibly one solution would be to compile all these scattered translations into a single PDF, which could then be made available on Archive, Academia, and to deposit libraries.  I could perhaps “publish it” formally, and give it an ISBN.  Indeed I could create print copies, and deposit them with legal deposit libraries.  That would be another avenue of preservation.

But it would be quite an undertaking to do this.  Like Dr Johnson, if more humbly, I do not even have a list of everything that I have done.  But I could do this.  The more recent material will be in PDF form already, on the blog.  Older material will be in HTML.  The most important of these is the translation Jerome’s Chronicle, which was in tabular form and very hairy to lay out in HTML, and will have its own special problems.

Perhaps the first step is simply to create a handlist of translations that I have created or published.  If St Augustine did this, in his Retractiones, then I need not be ashamed to do so.  Once a complete list exists – or reasonably complete – then the task of creating the preservation volume could begin.

I suppose that I could create that list as a page on this blog, in the first instance.  That might work.

The other bunch of material, of less importance, is the blog.  I wonder if there is a tool to export from WordPress to PDF!!  If not, maybe there should be!

Interesting thoughts, anyway.

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