Remember the floppy disk? The zip disk? How about the hard-drive that's now worth little more than a doorstop? How data is stored shifts fast, and histories preserved on one digital medium can quickly become worthless.
This is what has happened to Cheyenne Dog Soldiers: A Courageous Warrior History, a multimedia story on a CD-ROM chronicling the history of Cheyenne warriors, the Sand Creek Massacre, the 1869 Battle of Summit Springs and other fights and coups, through drawings from the oldest known Cheyenne ledger book.
Metaphor, the company that produced the disk hoping it would make the story more accessible, no longer exists. Soon, neither will disk drives. Starting in the early 2000s, CD-ROMs plummeted toward obsolescence. Who would bother learning about history from a disk, when the Internet boasts an endless supply of free information?
Now Elliot Fey, a Colorado-based startup consultant who co-founded Metaphor, is leading a team trying to raise money to "unlock" the materials from the CD-ROM and transfer them to a website, where they can reside and be eternally available to the public.
Fey first tried to secure funding from various historic institutions, but they couldn't afford to pony up the money, he says. So he turned to the fundraising website Kickstarter.
As Fey tells it, the histories of the Cheyenne documented on those now virtually worthless CD-ROMS will be lost if he cannot find a way to transfer the multimedia project onto the Internet. That's not a cheap process, and he wants public support.
"You can help unlock important stories and learning materials for everyone to enjoy and learn from for free," Fey says in his Kickstarter video.
But when video calling, dictionaries, encyclopedias, movies, music and, yes, even porn can be accessed for free online, consumers have been trained to expect to pay nothing for access to everything. Convincing them to pay to transfer a soon-to-be-digitally-obsolete multimedia project onto the Internet appears to be a tough proposition for Fey. It's not just historical institutions that haven't found a way to pay for the transfer and web hosting; it's also the public.
With just a few days left for Fey to meet his $27,000 goal, he has only managed to raise $395 from a total of seven backers.
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If he reaches that $27,000 goal, he pledges his team will "reverse-engineer" the original title, recover files, buy a domain and web hosting, and publish the archives from the CD-ROM to a website. If he raises more than $27,000, he will add content that was originally cut and create a platform where website users can upload other related historic materials to the site.
"Your support will make this a useful resource for educators and the public to use forever," he says.
As the original CD-ROM's rapid descent into worthlessness suggests, nothing is forever. Including access to history.
For more information about Fey's campaign, go to his Kickstarter page.