31 January 2011

Beware the Digital Dark Age

Wait a minute, didn't we just transfer all our paper files to digital in order to preserve them? Now we read articles like the one this morning in the Deseret News reporting that Janet Hovorka says we are risking our data to make it all digital (article not yet on-line this morning) without adequately backing it up. Hovorka recommends in her talk Jan 15 at the Riverton FamilySearch Library that we not only back up our data but that we spread it around, keeping several copies of everything important in a variety of places. Move it onto a storage center or hard drive. Disseminate it to family members. I recently restored a set of valuable DVDs to my uncle who was the originator of the digital recordings. He was grateful to have shared it!

Floppy disks and zip drives are disappearing; if you have something on this media, now is the time to migrate it. CDs need to be high quality to last very long, and flash drives are unreliable too. External hard drives and on-line storage are recommended, but they need to be continually updated.

Letters are a window to the past and we treasure old handwritten letters, but emails serve that purpose today. Are we saving them for the future or just feeding "the fire"?

"Digital materials are much more fragile than physical materials." This quote from Hovorka made me grateful once more for the inspiration to create our family's family history books. Digitization has its place. It makes materials more shareable, easier to copy, restore and index, but we have to work at making it last. Even websites and blogs need back-ups.

Hovorka's bottom line: Make our transfer and dissemination system so easy and simple that we are willing to do it. Don't gamble with the future. It's the first of the month again. Back-up.


  1. Thanks for the mention. I'm glad you enjoyed the article. I lecture on this quite often because we often hear people say they've scanned everything so they are all organized or, heaven forbid, that they've thrown out the hard copies. I treated the subject more thoroughly on my blog in July/Aug 2008. You can see that here:http://thechartchick.blogspot.com/search/label/archival. Thanks. Janet

  2. Thank you, Janet, for your timely lecture and for the heads up on where to find more information. Joy