The Lifecycle of Information

While working to collect information on the museums and related sites in the Smithsonian Institution’s Cultural Heritage Rescue Initiative, I am reminded of a library assignment I used with students to teach them about the lifecycle of information. The assignment focused on the reporting and discourse surrounding Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. The cycle starts with information posted online with blogs and other social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, usually on the same day. The next stage quickly follows with newspapers as seen with articles in The New York Times and The Washington Post about Hurricanes Rita and Irma. In the following weeks, we can find articles in popular magazines. A notable example that was brought to my attention by a fellow intern is the December 14 article “What It’s Like to Evacuate a Museum in a Natural Disaster” in The Atlantic by Sarah Zhang. Of course, this article is of particular interest to me working on the virtual side of the process with my internship. However, it will be months before information is published in scholarly and trade journals because of the process for submissions and peer-reviewing. It could then take years to see academic discussions of the events and their effects in book form due to the formal publishing timeline. This publishing timeline makes the work of the Cultural Heritage Rescue Initiative all the more urgent and necessary. As Zhang notes in her article, “not all museums are impenetrable fortresses.” As a result, it is critical that this information is recorded as quickly but also as thoroughly as possible.

Infographics created in 2012 by Jenna Rinalducci for an Honors Research Methods class at George Mason University

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