It’s Preservation Week! You may think that is only of interest to librarians and archivists, but it should also be of interest to you if you want to ensure that the physical and digital artifacts that you have generated throughout your life are available to you (and to others) in the future.
This week I’ll be sharing information from the American Library Association and the Library of Congress on how to preserve data, books, textiles, documents, slides and photographs, scrapbooks, and film and audio.
According to a recent survey cited in USA Today, only 57 percent of people back up their data. Are your personal records, memories, music, photos and documents at risk of being lost forever?
Tip: Back Up Your Data
Establish a backup system so your computer files are copied on a regular basis to another form of media. You can transfer files to a flash drive or CD, but those media may be obsolescent and useless in a few years. An external hard drive is the best and most convenient choice. Make more than one copy of your digital files and store copies in different physical locations.
Finding Digital Material
How will you remember where to find the digital photograph your sister sent last Christmas? If there is no system of organization or search mechanism available for your digital files, you may not be able to.
Descriptive keywords will help you retrieve and organize digital materials – be they digital photographs, videos or music. The popular term for adding keywords to digital content is tagging. Tag or label your digital files so your family can find them later.
Family memories and special events that future generations would value are increasingly documented in digital photographs. But 10 years from now current memory sticks and software will most likely be obsolete, trapping images in unusable or unsupported storage media.
Tip: Migrate and Save
Because digital photographs require specific hardware and software to view, it is important to migrate files to the latest storage media using freely available formats. Make several copies of digital photographs and keep them in different places. Saving copies of your photographs on websites and printing copies with archival-quality ink and high-quality paper are also options for preservation.
The everyday activities, work, major current events and personal observations documented in email are a direct record of our lives. If email is not preserved, a part of our history will be lost.
Tip: Save as Text Files
Email should be saved and managed just like any other important digital file. Save important personal email on a hard drive or storage disk as simple text files, making sure to have the header information. Ask if your employer has a policy about saving work-related email. You may also print out important emails.
The backup disks you make today may become damaged or obsolete in the future.
Tip: Preservation-Quality Disks
Never use rewritable discs for long-term storage. Do not use stickers to label discs, and always store them covered in a dark dry place. Also, convert old disks to new formats as they become available.
To get started follow these simple guidelines from the Library of Congress.
The tips page also provides links to additional resources.
On Thursday, April 30 at 11:00 PST, the Association of Library Collections and Technical Services is offering a free webinar on “Digital Preservation for Individuals and Small Group.” Mike Ashenfelder, Digital Preservation Project Coordinator at the Library of Congress, will discuss what it takes to preserve commonly used digital files such photos, recordings, videos and documents. Learn about the nature of the digital-preservation challenge and hear about some simple, practical tips and tools to help you preserve your digital stuff. Find out more here.