Basic Principles of Archiving Photographs and Documents

Source: Archive History

Photograph inside the Beachy Store in Yoder, Kansas about 1933.

Photograph inside the Beachy Store in Yoder, Kansas about 1933.

Digital archives can greatly enhance the preservation and sharing of historical information.

An historical photograph archive intended to be accessible for at least 50 years will be handled differently than a personal photograph collection.

The master images in an historical archive are intended to be suitable for many different uses for decades in the future. The documentation for an item perpetually stays with the master image.

Working copies of the master images are made when adapting the images for particular uses.

At least three copies of the archive should be maintained, including at least one copy at a different location. Distributing copies of the archive to others can achieve this result.

With current technology, the digital files in the archive should be transferred to new storage media at least approximately every two to four years. This needs to be done even when the person establishing the archive is no longer able to do it.

For family archives, a good strategy for long-term preservation of the original items after the digital images have been made is to donate the items to a museum, library, or archive.

A backup copy of a digital archive must be made because the disk drive on a computer can irretrievably fail at any time. I had a hard disk failure several years ago and know a person who had a complete disk failure twice in the past few years. Also, backup copies are important protection from viruses and other malware that are a major threat to a computer system. Of course, backup copies of the entire computer system should also be made in addition to the historical archives.

Backups should be done frequently and migrated to new media. The media for storing the backup changes as technology advances. A few years ago I used CDs and DVDs for backup. Now I use external disk drives. An historical archive must be migrated to new media as technology changes. The idea that a person can make one backup copy that will last for decades is not applicable. The backup copy can fail and also has a high probability of becoming obsolete media. For an organization with a professionally managed computer network, backups will normally be handled by an Information Technology Department and should meet the criteria described here.

At least three copies of an archive should be maintained, and preferably more. At least one of the copies should be in a different location. The minimum copies of my historical archives typically include:
1. The primary copy on my computer.
2.  A backup copy on an external drive by the computer.
3.  Another backup copy on an external drive that is in a safe deposit box at a bank.
4.  One or more copies on Blu-Ray that have been given to people who are interested in the archive.

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Blu-Ray is a Great Way to Store a Lot of Stuff

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Source: Outdoor Photographer

blu-ray-disc-icon-1280x1024I want to try Blu-Ray for long-term photo backup. You see, I’ve had troubles with hard drives. Lots of troubles.

My typical method of protecting my photo files is to archive my images daily to another internal hard drive that serves as a short-term backup. Then on a monthly basis, I copy those images to an external hard drive and duplicate them onto a series of DVDs. That way I’ve got two backups—one magnetic and one optical—and they can be stored in separate locations.

It’s a good thing I make those DVD backups too, because I’m approaching a 100% failure rate on external hard drives. I’ve lost three this year. Two of them failed for no reason, one of them was damaged due to human error (when I dropped it). I duplicated all those DVDs each time, and it was a real pain. But at least I was able to recover my data from the DVD backups, and at least I once again have duplicate versions.

The problem is that I need to replace the long-term hard drive storage with a more efficient medium. DVDs are fine, as I end up burning anywhere from 10 to 30 of them every month. It would sure be nice to streamline that system into a single process—like I would get from a Blu-Ray disk with a capacity as much as six times greater than a DVD.

Why don’t I just invest in a Drobo hard drive system, or perhaps a full-scale RAID? It’s really a matter of money. Sure, the cost per gigabyte is better with these redundant-disk hard drive systems. But even the relatively affordable Drobo requires a more significant up front capital investment than a Blu-Ray burner (which can be had for $200, and five- to ten-dollar recordable discs). If you’re not backing up truly massive quantities of data, the 25-gigs of a single layer Blu-Ray is a great way to store a lot of stuff, relatively quickly and efficiently and affordably. Most of all, more archivally.

More than anything, as exciting as Drobo or Raid hard drive systems might be, they still would require a level of “maintenance” that I’m getting tired of. The genius of redundant drives is that when one fails, it can be swapped for a new one. That’s a great failsafe, but it’s based on a premise I still don’t love: “when” the drive fails.

My magnetic media confidence has been shaken by all of my recent hard drive disasters. The idea of storing my photos on optical media—a disc that seems to be inherently more durable and stable than magnetic media drives—gets more appealing every day.

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MAM-A Inc. is the optical media specialist. We provide the best high quality 24kt pure Gold archive grade recordable media which offers superior longevity.

Our exclusive online store offers customers a comprehensive selection of the latest recordable media, including CD-R, DVD-R/+R, DVD+R DL, M-DISC, UDO & BD-R/RE.

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