Since the 1980s, our personal and family heritage is increasingly created and stored digitally. It is easy to believe that the documents, photographs, and home movies created on your phone or computer will last forever. However, digital materials are often more fragile than physical ones. Machines and software capable of reading old digital formats - like foppy disks, Zip drives, or early word processor program files - are increasingly hard to find. Additionally, digital information stored on hard drives and thumb drives can be subject to 'bit rot,' where data can be lost to wear, dust and contaminants, or poor storage conditions.
Preserving digital informaton for the long term requires regular maintenance and attention, to assure that data and files will remain accessible via future computer systems. See the resources below for more information on storing and maintaining your personal digital histoy.
The Digital Preservation Program at the LIbrary of Congress suggests five steps to making your digital files last:
As always, one of the most imporant steps to insuring your personal and family history lasts through the ages is to identify, date, and clearly label material as you create and use it.
When capturing digital files from the internet - or when posting your own digital content online - it's important to consider the rights and privacy of yourself and others. The guides below were developed by activists, journalists, and human rights archivists, but many of their suggestions are broadly applicable. Always be aware of how you may be using or releasing sensitive or private information, or what future consequences may be.