Personal digital preservation is important

This last week has been an interesting one, particularly as my students in Creating and Preserving Digital Content began to share their personal experiences with digital content both in the workplace and in their own lives.  I relate to their experiences in so many ways, and I am learning from them – as I always do when I work with students (kids or adults).

At the end of the day, there are so many issues to consider – and yet in school education circles they are not usually mentioned let alone planned for. The reality is, there are different stakeholders in digital preservation – librarians, archivists, museum curators, IT professionals, scientists – all of whom have different reasons for needing to keep things.

Are we throwing away the right things?  Are we preserving the right things?  Are we actually preserving successfully? I still have a small collection of floppy disks, with some material on them that I think I should retrieve – but I no longer have a device that can retrieve the information. My personal bits and pieces are possibly not too important, but your bits and pieces might be vital to your family.   This is such a simple example of obscalesence that is the premsie for Avoiding a Digital Dark Age – which we just might inadvertantly get sucked into if we do not take some firm steps now.

Rob Blackhurst asked Will history end up in the trash ?

It’s a sobering thought that the Domesday book, written in 1086 on pages of stretched sheepskin, has lasted more than 900 years. That latter-day Domesday project is a metaphor for the carelessness with which we’re treating the digital information created during the past 20 years. The first telegram ever sent has been preserved in a frame; the first e-mail, sent in the 1960s using a mainframe computer the size of a room, has been lost. Will future generations look back at this period as a “digital dark age” – a modern equivalent of the early Middle Ages, which left barely a trace on the written historical record?

So perhaps you are like me – and have to reconsider how you manage your digital memories? The Confessions of an Imperfect Digital Archivist got me thinking, though I have to say I haven’t begun any action yet!

Preserving your digital memories is possibily one of the most important things to do.

This Library of Congress site about Personal Archiving provides a good starting point in your personal re-organisation, or you can Download the Personal Archiving Brochure.  The content covers photographs, mail, audio, video, personal records and website.

To be honest, I am now quite glad that most of my personal history is not digital! Our photo albums, letters, home movies and paper documents are a vital link to the past.  Personal information we create today has the same value.  The only difference is that much of it is now digital. As new technology emerges and current technology becomes obsolete, we need to actively manage our digital possessions to help protect them and keep them available for years to come.

This video offers simple and practical strategies for personal digital preservation.

cc licensed ( BY SD ) flickr photo shared by Ian Muttoo