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Paperless Research

Article and Artifact — Digitization's Dilemma: A True Story

Faust (all versions), Digital ID TH-11958, New York Public LibraryEvery librarian understands that the increased reliance on digital resources is a Faustian bargain.

While the stakes may not seem as high as in the legend, the risks are plain, clear, and much discussed in library and publishing literature. For any organization that wishes to preserve or archive its resources, digitization can be both a blessing and a curse. Easier access versus preservation concerns may not be possible to reconcile completely.

The dilemma of the liberated; an interpretation of twentieth century humanism., Digital ID 492804, New York Public LibraryOn a day-to-day level, the limitations of some digital resources are painfully evident. Particularly on a micro-level. For example, not only are some journal articles unavailable in full-text electronically, but the specific digital format can make a big difference in its usability.

In other words: things are not always what they seem. This was brought home to me recently. We received an advance copy of the December issue of Naval History, which included a brief article by naval historian Paul Stillwell, featuring my wife's step-father, John L. McCrea (the Admiral). Seeing that this journal is included in EBSCO's Academic Search Premier database and is available outside the Library with a library card, I thought "great!" — we can let people know they can find the article there.

But, uh, when I looked at the online article — which can be accessed here (you'll need a library card to get this if you're outside the Library) — it turned out to be in HTML only. Where are the pictures!?! In the original, there's a great photo of the Navy's first aircraft from 1911, about which the Admiral reminisces in his memoirs. Plus a picture of him as a midshipman.

Well, since these pictures were scanned in at home, I've decided that as a gesture of the holiday spirit I will post them (uncropped) here. Plus, a couple of bonus pictures not included in the article. Enjoy, and have great end of the year holidays!

The Navy's First Aeroplane, 1911The Navy's First Aeroplane, 1911

Replica B-I in Dahlgren Hall, 2011Replica B-I in Dahlgren Hall, 2011

Midshipman John L. McCreaMidshipman John L. McCrea

Captain John L. McCreaCaptain John L. McCrea

Short note about the Admiral: For information about his fascinating career, please read Paul Stillwell's article — you also can find out some things in various online sources. Admiral McCrea was a true Navy man who loved a good "yarn." In his later years he decided to do an oral history about his experiences during over 40 years in the service. That is the basis of the memoir mentioned in the article.

When the Admiral passed away in early 1990, at almost 99, he was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery. Afterward, at the reception, some of the men who had served under him on the battleship Iowa as youngsters, in 1990 in their mid- to late-60s, wept, unable to choke back their tears as they struggled to say what he meant to them.


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