After companies shut down and collectors lose interest, the Library of Congress is supposed to keep our cultural history intact. But digital media has turned our understanding of preservation on its head. It’s no longer enough to just get “a copy” of something: an ebook can be set to self-destruct, an MMO can be nothing without the people who play it, and a streaming video can have a million digital copies and no physical ones. When Buzzfeed journalist Joseph Bernstein profiled the Library of Congress’ video game collection, he included a tantalizing reference to how new media and traditional archival can collide:
The Library’s processes are, by the standards of 21st century media consumption, antiquated. Netflix has to print special VHS copies of their streaming hits like Orange Is the New Black and House of Cards for copyright consideration.