- First, let’s set aside for the moment the entire discussion of HOW these people attained their enormous wealth. Let’s not hijack this into a Robber Baron thread, ok?*
Bill Gates suffers a critical thought process gap, considering that he’s the world’s wealthiest individual. He attained that wealth in an era of social narcissism. Andrew Carnegie, the Fricks, the Annenbergs, etc- all attained vast fortunes. They returned said fortunes to a small degree to society as they saw fit. Andrew Carnegie and (??Firstname??) Melon provided funds for what today is Carnegie-Melon University. ( Carnegie also built his Music Halls in Pittsburgh and New York City ). The Annenbergs shovelled fortunes back into the education system for theatre and media. And, so on.
It seems that Mr. Gates is not interested in making the finest use of his aquired assets in this area. The very idea that there is to be ONE Scanning Technician for- as near as I could count, and I’m okay with my counting these days-over 50 million images is staggering. The insult to the very idea of calling this collection an Archive is huge. When one buys DaVinci’s writings and sketches, or a collection such as Bettman or Sygma, I feel that one assumes a social liability. Yes, a liability. You are now the custodian of social history, far beyond just the owner of assets. You bear a personal responsibility for the careful, thoughtful and useful dissemination of those assets- for profit, yes. But still, they remain larger than the individual who owns them.
For not a lot of money relatively speaking, Mr. Gates could rent more space under Iron Mountain and create the finest high speed state of the art scanning and retrieval facility in the world. Instead of one or two, he could have a cadre of handlers, cataloguers and scanning techs. It’s a very easy thing. All it takes is recognition of responsibility, and money. Mr. Gates seems to be sorely lacking in one, just as he has a great excess of the other.
It is a monstrosity that the materials shall be frozen and not accessable. NOT just because the creative Eve’s of the world can’t now find the right photos for their books, but because of something a bit more…organic. ( And, Eve I mean no offense by that as you shall see momentito).
There is the immeasurable importance of non-linear thinking and discovery. When Eve sifts through folders filled with photographs, her creative juices are not only flowing because she’s excited that she might find just the right image, but because she is open to any idea. Like all creative people are. To me the second largest crime here is that the ability to think out of the box is gone forever with such an immense array of visual media. Here…try this…
I was standing at the grave of President Theodore Roosevelt about 7 weeks ago. I was there shooting for the History Channel. While we were between shots, I walked over to his actual grave. Surrounded by high wrought iron fence. And, my mind just wandered. I came up with what I think is a very interesting idea for a documentary. Why? Because I was THERE, and being rather non-linear in my thinking at the moment. The same gift is presented to someone who, instead of filling out an order form on which they must write the EXACT image number they wish to purchase, is allowed to peruse images and see what percolates.
Mr. Gates has removed that possibility in one clean sweep. How many of us have gone off onto the Web looking for a cite for a posting here on the Straight Dope, only to discover something tangential yet fascinating. It’s what makes us who we are, the beneficiaries of higher thought.
He’s going to move that collection. All of them in the next few years, I’d wager. All we can do is try to impress upon him the value of assembling ALL 50 MILLION images into Terrabyte Disks that are then available for selection and purchase.
It’s his asset to do with as he sees fit. I just find it tragic that he doesn’t see fit to both profit from the investment and use it for the betterment of society and historical analyses.
I wonder if he reads his own e-mails.
I’m griefstricken over this as well, there must be a way to appeal to that Great Social Mover and Shaker bit of DNA within that man. Because, it’s not some committee…it’s the decision of the individual. I can understand it, I just find it contemptable.