25Trusting Amateurs with Our Future

Jon Ippolito

This essay focuses on unofficial preservation practices and why they are sometimes more effective than professional enterprises.1 After challenging the prevailing expectations about durability as the touchstone of long-term cultural memory, this chapter looks at the rise of preservation by so-called amateurs in writing emulators and crowdsourcing the replication of 3D artifacts. It concludes with the challenges of such proliferative preservation to conventional notions of cultural heritage.

The Oldest Human Record

Take a look at Figure 25.1. Which of these is the oldest human record? The Rosetta Stone, the Cycladic idol, the Megatherium, or the Gudea Cylinders?

Image described by caption.

Figure 25.1 Clockwise from upper left: Female figure of the Dokathismata type (Getty Museum). Marble, from Cycaldes, Greece, 30.2 cm (11 7/8 in.). Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.

The Gudea Cylinders. Photo by Ramessos. (Public domain)

The Rosetta Stone. Photo copyright Hans Hillewaert. Some rights reserved (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.)

Artist’s rendering of the Megatherium. Image by DiBgd. (Public domain)

The Megatherium Lives

This is the oldest human record I have found: the story of the mapinguary, passed down from generation to generation among the Indians of the Brazilian rainforest. Twenty feet tall, ...

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