May Day: Help others and save your own digital life!

Society of American Archivists' May Day 2017 logo

Happy May Day!

The Society of American Archivists promotes May 1 as a day for all cultural heritage institutions to take time to consider how well their collections are protected.This year there’s a twist: a call for support of the SSA-SAA Emergency Disaster Assistance Grant Fund. The Society of Southwest Archivists and the Society of American Archivists created the fund to address the stabilization and recovery needs of archival repositories affected by Hurricane Katrina.

To learn more about this collaboration, including how to receive funding, visit the SAA page that describes the program. If you are able to assist our colleagues by donating to the fund, please click here.

Below are some tips from the Library of Congress on how you can help save the digital objects that mean the most in your life:

Visit http://digitalpreservation.gov/personalarchiving/ for more details!

Visit http://digitalpreservation.gov/personalarchiving/ for more details!

Digital objects are not durable–threats to them include but are not limited to losing account access (third party providers can disappear at any time) and losing the ability to read file formats and media due to obsolescence.

Digital files can’t be placed on a virtual shelf and forgotten. All digital preservation strategies include specific ways to record as much information about the original file as possible.

Digital objects proliferate so take time to organize versions and apply standard names to your files. It is often difficult for archivists to arrange digital files other than by creation date, but creators have the first-hand knowledge required to identify and arrange versions of their works.

STEPS YOU CAN TAKE:

    • Retain original physical media. Never dispose of physical media and never copy over original bit streams. Even if files are unreadable today, new technology may enable archivists to view “unreadable” files in the near future.
    • Migrate files to new software and hardware. The easiest way to increase the longevity of digital material is migration, or the transfer of materials from one hardware and software configuration to the next generation of hardware and/or software. Files stored on 5.5″ or 3.5″ floppy disks should be transferred to a hard drive and a back-up. Migrate files written in older software to newer versions of open-source or standard software. It is desirable to retain at least two versions of migrated digital files: one in its original software format (this is the “original” bit stream) and one in a more current software format. If you purchase a new computer, migrate files from the old hard drive to the new one. Migration to a CD is not an effective solution as the life of a CD is rather short.
    • Avoid specialized software.Migration can be hindered if the original files were not saved in a standard format. Although non-proprietary formats are the best options for saving digital files (e.g., ASCII or Rich-Text Format (RTF)), Microsoft Office products also serve as de-facto standards due to their prevalence. For images, we recommend using file standards such as Tag Image File Formats (TIFF) or Portable Network Graphics (PNG) files.
    • Never compress or encode your data.Compression and encoding provide one more obstacle to preserving electronic material. Electronic material should be as transparent as possible to facilitate preservation. Compression and encoding software prevents others from readings your data, including archivists

Remember Ozymandias

Ramses II

Image from http://energyblog.nationalgeographic.com

If worries about the future life of your past weigh heavily on your mind, read on!

An 1818 poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley recently inspired me to think of a way to communicate the services available through archives. The poem contains the lines
“‘My name is Ozymandias*, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!'”

The irony is that Shelley was reflecting on the ruins of a great civilization. The lines beg the question: What  will remain of the work we do?

The programs and services of the University’s archives include research assistance with IWU’s collections. We advise on what among the works we produce are important to retain and how these works, whether physical or digital, can be preserved. We also have an Oral History program that allows us to go beyond just the products of our daily lives and helps preserve the context they were created in.

The way people view their experiences at IWU add dimensions to our historical records that statuary never will. Meg Miner, your archivist, stands ready to help preserve your legacy today!

*Ozymandias was an Anglicized version of the Greek’s name for Pharaoh Ramesses II.

May Day preservation tips

MayDay_History_12

The Society of American Archivists promotes May 1 as a day for all cultural heritage institutions to take time to consider how well their collections are protected. At IWU’s University Archives, (located in Tate Archives & Special Collections, 4th floor, The Ames Library) we conduct collection assessments and use high quality boxes and other material to protect items on our shelves. Physical Plant’s Heating/Cooling crew conducts regular maintenance to make sure our environmental conditions are efficient and effective. Other maintenance personnel and cleaning crews from Physical Plant keep our building in good condition, too.

Here at the Ames Library, we also take a building-wide approach to disaster preparedness and there are probably many students, staff and faculty who’ve been inconvenienced by our fire drills, but we hope everyone values their significance in keeping people safe! We have regular site visits with the crews of Bloomington’s Fire Department both to familiarize them with our floor plans and collection concerns and to give us their opinions on our safety practices.

Also at this time of year, The American Library Association and partners that include the Library of Congress, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, The American Institute for Conservation, Heritage Preservation, and the Society of American Archivists, are promoting Preservation Week to highlight collections of all kinds, and suggest simple steps to help you make sure your treasures and memories last a lifetime and are passed on to future generations.

What can you do?

1. Take a look around your home or wherever you store the mementos of your life and the lives of people who are important to you. Is a lot of it in long-term storage? Is the storage room subject to temperature and humidity fluctuation?

TIP: You don’t need to have cold storage to make paper and print photographic collections last. Constant levels of each are the most important thing. 70 degrees F is the upper recommended limit, but keeping spaces well-ventilated and preventing frequent fluctuation can help your stuff go a long way into the future.

2. Are your mementos sitting on the ground? Try putting a pallet underneath boxes or raising them 4-6 inches off the floor with something else.

3. Avoid stacking boxes directly on each other if at all possible. Open shelving is optimal: leaving space on all sides of stored material promotes air circulation and limits the chance that mold will develop.

4. Do you have digital files? Do you back up your hard drive or use a commercial company for online storage? If you’ve got a back up hard drive, is it located near your primary digital storage place? Explore ways to back up your important files and keep them in a separate location to lessen the chance for loss if there’s a fire or natural disaster in your area.

5. Are your digital images labeled? File names like DSC7723, DSC7724, and so on can accumulate faster than you think. After awhile, how will you know what you are saving?

TIP: At a minimum, make folders with event names and dates to store photos in or create an index that associates this information with the program-generated file names.

6. Are your physical collections falling apart? Books, photo albums, scrapbooks and textiles need attention if they are to last. Taking photos out of old albums whose adhesives are failing and making sure they’re labeled is a good start. Some books may be rebound, but many will survive well into the future in a box or wrapper designed for them. Photocopying or scanning newspaper clippings can preserve their information without the worry of deterioration due to typically acidic scrapbook pages and/or newspaper itself.

TIP: Don’t seal anything in a plastic bag! Condensation forms quickly in plastic and damp, airless environments promote mold growth.

If you have concerns about any of your personal collections, I’m happy to talk with you about them. Use Preservation Week as a time to take stock of what you’re keeping, why it’s important to you and how you can act in ways that will keep your stuff safe for years to come!

Note: more ideas are available in one of my previous blog posts.

Save Your Stuff!

Memories and treasures should last a lifetime and be passed on to future generations. The first national collections Preservation Week, “Pass It On!”, is taking place May 9-15, 2010.

The American Library Association and partners that include the Library of Congress, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, The American Institute for Conservation, Heritage Preservation, and the Society of American Archivists, are promoting Preservation Week to highlight collections of all kinds, and suggest simple steps to help you make sure your treasures and memories last a lifetime and are passed on to future generations.

What can you do?

1. Take a look around your home or wherever you store the mementos of your life and the lives of people who are important to you. Is a lot of it in long-term storage? Is the storage room subject to temperature and humidity fluctuation?

TIP: You don’t need to have cold storage to make paper and print photographic collections last. Constant levels of each are the most important thing. 70 degrees F is the upper recommended limit, but keeping spaces well-ventilated and preventing frequent fluctuation can help your stuff go a long way into the future.

2. Is your stuff sitting on the ground? Try putting a pallet underneath boxes or raising them 4-6 inches off the floor with something else.

3. Avoid stacking boxes directly on each other if at all possible. Open shelving is optimal: leaving space on all sides of stored material promotes air circulation and limits the chance that mold will develop.

4. Is your stuff digital? Do you back up your hard drive or use a commercial company for online storage? If you’ve got a back up hard drive, is it located near your primary digital storage place? Explore ways to back up your important files and keep them in a separate location to lessen the chance for loss if there’s a fire or natural disaster in your area.

5. Is your digital stuff labeled? File names like DSC7723, DSC7724, and so on can accumulate faster than you think. After awhile, how will you know what you are saving?

TIP: At a minimum, make folders with event names and dates to store photos in or create an index that associates this information with the program-generated file names.

6. Are your physical collections falling apart? Books, photo albums, scrapbooks and textiles need attention if they are to last. Taking photos out of old albums whose adhesives are failing and making sure they’re labeled is a good start. Some books may be rebound, but many will survive well into the future in a box or wrapper designed for them. Photocopying or scanning newspaper clippings can preserve their information without worrying about deterioration due to typically acidic scrapbook pages and/or newspaper itself.

TIP: Don’t seal anything in a plastic bag! Condensation forms quickly in plastic and promotes mold.

If you have concerns about any of your personal collections, I’m happy to talk with you about them. Use Preservation Week as a time to take stock of what you’re keeping, why it’s important to you and how you can act in ways that will keep your stuff safe for years to come!

Note: more ideas are available in one of my previous blog posts

Tips to make an archivist’s day…

Here are some recent musings I thought I’d share that I’m sure will make any archivist appreciate your efforts and ensure your documentary heritage has a pleasant, regret-free life!

Dos:

Date all photos, documents, publications, etc. At the minimum, a year will make future generations think fondly of you!

Provide a minimum of an event or occasion name on the back of a printed photo in pen, at the edge. Try not to write hard enough to make an impression bulge through to the image side! For digital images, embed the info in the file name or in the “properties” summary. If you don’t know how to do that send a typed list with the corresponding file name along with the images or just save them on a CD in a file folder with the event name.

When sending a box to the archives, put your or your office’s name on it and one or two words about the contents. If the box has been stored in a damp location, call ahead to let the archives know before sending it over. We’ll need to have it delivered someplace other than main archives area until we can evaluate the contents for pests or mold.

If you have a large amount of material to remove from an office, I am happy to visit it in place to determine how much needs to be moved to the archives and what might go directly to recycling/shredding or other disposal. Labor Crew will appreciate only having to move boxes once!

Dont’s:

Post-it notes leave a gummy residue on historical records. Try slipping a strip of paper inside a cover or making a note in pencil. Or putting the whole packet of material in its own envelope.

If you use a paper clip to attach notes, make sure it’s steel or plastic. If you have to use a metal clip (steel or otherwise) try folding a small scrap of paper over the material to act as a buffer with the clip. And if you find material with a clip that’s been on so long it’s rusted and/or making an impression in a packet, leave it there and we’ll take care of removal in the archives.

Rubber bands create long-term problems, too. The bands dry up and can leave pieces permanently attached to material. It’s best not to use these at all…even paper clips do less damage!