Melissa Eastin is an archivist for the East Baton Rouge Parish Library, and as such, she deals with countless piles of fading photographs, crumbling newspapers, and more… the goal of which is to preserve them for as long as possible. Today, the preferred method is digitally.
But as she recently shared with the Advocate, the question arises in her mind which will last longer: the digital version or the paper?
Perhaps this seems like a ridiculous question, as it would seem that the digital file would far outlast a paper one. But if a file is stored solely on a computer, what happens if the file gets erased or destroyed inadvertently? Or, more likely, archivists and historians tell us of a digital dark age; an incomplete history that could appear once digital photos, emails and the like are deposited in the computer’s recycle bin. We are each, after all, tiny pieces of our nation’s history.
Ms Eastin recommends the following steps to ensure your memories will pass on for posterity:
Step 1: PRINT.
When was the last time you used a floppy disc? Does anyone own a computer anymore that can access a floppy disc? Any information stored on these common forms of filing from the 1980′s is virtually inaccessible. Since it’s hard to say what method of storage will evolve in the future, a safe bet is actually surprising: use paper.
To ensure photos last, use high-quality, archival paper and ink. Look for:
Any brand of matte-coated paper — a nonglossy, bulky paper.
Glossy papers such as HP Premium Plus Color Fast or Epson ColorLife.
For the written word, (such as emails, essays, memoirs and the like) Use:
An acid-free paper with a ph of 7.0 or higher. Lignin-free paper is best.
Paper marked as permanent paper, which follows a rigid standard for preservation.
Step 2: DIGITAL COPIES
In the wake of so many devestating storms, many have suffered an irreplacable loss: memories literally turned to mush by flood waters, covered in mold.
If you want to get agressive and commit to not losing your personal and family history, try this method:
1. Digitize everything. Scan photographs and letters; computerize audio files.
2. Back up your computer regularly. Use an external hard drive, and re-archive your files monthly.
3. Make three copies. One to keep at home, one stored in a safety deposit box, and one on what is called a “cloud service” (like Dropbox).
4. Stay up to date on updates in technology so the types of files you’re storing do not become obsolete.
What not to do? Nothing. Don’t let those shoe boxes packed with your Uncle’s photos crumble away. Make a proactive effort to preserve your families’ memories for future generations. They will thank you for it.