Digital Archiving and Preservation Information

Image derivatives?  Old copies of files?  Old media with old data?  As our digital media becomes more pervasive, and our digital objects ubiquitous — and with storage costs declining — principles that help us engage in personal digital archiving becomes more and more important.  Additionally, the research, teaching, and learning objects that are part of our professional life can benefit from these principles as well.

Expert Resources – “your resource for nearly anything you want to know about digital photograph” – excellent site for workflow, management, and preservation

Resources for:

Digital photographs [PDF]

Digital audio [PDF]

Digital video [PDF]

Personal digital records [PDF]

Websites [PDF]

Storage and media guidance – scanning your personal collection and storage media longevity [PDFs]

For more information, visit the Library of Congress Personal Digital Archiving website, digital


Six important steps

Although different media will require different paths to help ensure longevity, there are some basic first steps that can be applied to all digital objects.  This list is compiled from the advice provided by Phil Michel, Digital Conversion Coordinator from the Prints & Photographs Division of the Library of Congress:

  1. Identify where you have your information.  Keep this list handy.
  2. Decide what is important to you.
  3. Get organized.
  4. Make copies of your data.
  5. Understand the trade-offs of placing objects in various websites, etc., and what is helping you accomplish digital preservation.
  6. Embed extractable metadata whenever possible.

The 3-2-1 rule

  • Make three copies
  • Have at least two of the copies on two different types of media
  • Keep one copy in a different location from where you live / work

Which is the hardest step to follow?  It might not be the most obvious one…

There are many complexities when beginning the steps needed to sustain your digital files over time.  Significant complexities of software and file management can compound an already-difficult task.  No matter what software you choose to help you manage your files, ensure that the software you are using is saving information accessible outside the software.  Ask yourself questions along these lines: can you see your metadata (e.g., picture titles) outside of your chosen software?  Do you accept the trade-offs when placing pictures on a photo-sharing site on the web?  Are some of your copies “derivative” copies and some original formats?  Digital preservation can be daunting.
However, one of the most important steps to take is Step 3: Get Organized.  Two important facets of this step:
  1. Generate a file naming scheme or system that works for you.  For example, a researcher may choose to organize her files based on date of research.  Whatever you choose, stick with this system.
    Recommended best practice from the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA): prefix your files with a project name or other identifier, then use underscores (_) to delimit between file parts.
    Example: Research project = “Matthew Vassar Papers” (we’ll call this MVP)
    folder: mvp_articles
    filenames: mvp_article_author-name_year
  2. Make sure that your file naming scheme is understandable to someone who doesn’t know you.  This does not mean that this “outside person” can immediately understand what is in each file, but that the person can immediately understand the scheme you used to organize yourself.

Expert advice from the Library of Congress

Sustainability of Digital Formats: Planning for Library of Congress Collections
Offers information about digital content formats, best practices, and sustainability factors.

Digital images: Phil Michel, Digital Conversion Coordinator from the Prints & Photographs Division of the Library of Congress

Digital audio:  Peter Alyea, Digital Conservation Specialist, Preservation Reformatting, Music, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division of the Library of Congress