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City of Sydney historian, Lisa Murray

I recently spoke with history department alumna and City of Sydney historian Dr Lisa Murray (pictured), who, will be speaking about the need to future-proof the memory of the world at this year's TEDxSydney.

Watch the clip below for a preview of what Lisa has to say at TEDxSydney

Records are the foundations of our historical understanding. From our personal to political history, we depend on historical documents to reveal the buried secrets of our past. But in our modern age, ‘digital-born’ records are increasingly being lost as new technologies and new software is developed, says City of Sydney's historian, Dr Lisa Murray.

As a lover of history, Lisa wants to reverse this trend, and emphasises that we all must “future-proof the memory of our world, because if we don't have the means to preserve born-digital records then we won't be able to access it in the future. If this happens, we will have trouble understanding the past and trouble planning for the future.”

In contrast, paper records “have an inherent preservation quality in them so we haven't had to worry about that platform – we can just put things on paper and then put it aside and they'll generally be ok,” she says.

Her advice is to be much more proactive when handling digital records: “this means that businesses and governments, when developing software, need to think about how information can be exported in a meaningful way so that it can be easily upgraded or transferred across to another system. All of those archiving abilities must be built into the software form the start.”

Fifteen years experience as a professional historian has made Lisa acutely aware of the urgency of the problem confronting us. She believes the Dictionary of Sydney, an encyclopaedia of greater Sydney made possible via a grant by the University of Sydney, provides a great example of why it's so important to preserve digital-born records and digitalise physical records.

The Dictionary is an ongoing project “exploring a model of how we can visualise history using digital technology,” says Lisa, “and its growing all the time as people send in new information, so our understanding of Sydney also keeps changing and we’re able to keep updating the historical record.”

Bringing history and the digital future together – catch Dr Lisa Murray on 4 May at this year’s TEDxSydney.


Find out more about the University’s partnership with TEDxSydney

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