The Permanence of Digital Files

LISNews highlights this New York Times article about the preservation of personal digital materials. Focusing on digital photos, the article mentions efforts by the Library of Congress to improve the preservation of digital files and how librarians and archivists have been working with these issues. It also discusses challenges related to obsolete computer equipment and how print formats may still be the best ways to save things.

Amidst this article about the fragility and instability of digital materials, this passage seems rather ironic:

"Short of a clear solution, experts recommend that people copy their materials, which were once on vinyl, film and paper, to CD’s and other backup formats.

But backup mechanisms can also lose their integrity. Magnetic tape, CD’s and hard drives are far from robust. The life span of data on a CD recorded with a CD burner, for instance, could be as little as five years if it is exposed to extremes in humidity or temperature."

The article reminds me of a conversation I had with someone who works a lot with personal digital photos. He told me some of the things he and his friends do to try to save copies of the photos, like storing backups on other people’s servers and printing the most important ones.

I do not own a digital camera. I’ve considered buying one many times and see quite a few benefits to having one, but part of my hesitation comes with these issues. What am I going to do with the digital files?

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