Personal Archiving

The Genesis of ‘Personal Archiving: Preserving Our Digital Heritage’

I said in my previous posting that our digital data are fragile and perishable and that preservation is one of the most important reasons to undertake an archiving project.  And as it turned out, that consideration led eventually to the publication of Personal Archiving: Preserving Our Digital Heritage.

In the mid-1950s, my father bought a 35mm camera and began taking slides.  Our family moved from New Jersey to California that year, and he wanted to record some of the places we had been during our 10-year stay in New Jersey as well as our trip across the country.  He taught me how to use the camera, and during the succeeding years, I assumed an increasing role as the family photographer. From then until digital photography came along, the slide collection grew to about 30,000 slides, housed in over 70 cigar boxes.  I discovered that cigar boxes were ideal for storing slides because:

  • After selling the cigars, stores had no use for the empty boxes and gave them away,
  • They are about 3 inches deep, which is an ideal size for holding slides, and
  • Each one can hold about 300 slides.

As the slide collection grew, I became increasingly aware that it was a valuable repository of family history, and I was also concerned that it should be preserved from loss or damage in a disaster. I therefore began to scan the slides and create a digital archive of them. You can read further details about this in Chapter 2 of Personal Archiving, by Danielle Conklin.

In 2010 and 2011 I was fortunate to be able to attend the second and third Personal Digital Archiving conferences held at the Internet Archive in San Francisco, as a reporter for Information Today, and when I heard the talks there, it became obvious to me that they would form the basis for a great book. Fortunately, when I proposed it to John Bryans at Information Today, Inc., he agreed, and the project was off and running.

So that’s how it all started, but the real message is: yes, you can lose your digital media, so make preparations for its secure storage, back it up, and store it on more than one type of media. (Read Chapter 3 of Personal Archiving, by Mike Ashenfelder from the Library of Congress, for more tips in this area.)

For more information about Personal Archiving: Preserving Our Digital Heritage, visit the ITI website to read a sample chapter.


About Donald T. Hawkins

Donald T. Hawkins is a writer, blogger, speaker, and long-time information industry observer whose distinguished career included 15 years in the AT&T Bell Laboratories Library Network, where he was honored for his pioneering contributions in end-user searching. He is the author of hundreds of articles and a two-time winner of the UMI/Data Courier Award for excellence in writing. He is the editor of Personal Archiving: Preserving Our Digital Heritage.