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Volume: 8 | Article ID: art00032
Preservation of Documents and Photographic Images: Long Term Strategies for Future Generations
  DOI :  10.2352/issn.2168-3204.2011.8.1.art00032  Published OnlineJanuary 2011

Upon discovering the unfamiliar object in their grandparents' attic, most people today would be hard-pressed to play back a recording made on a wax cylinder of the late 1800s. What will people do just 50 years from now with an optical disk or magnetic hard drive? Over time, we have recorded our memories in many ways: letters, post cards, photographs, movies, audio and video recordings are a few examples. In earlier days, interpreting those non-time-sequenced (“still”) recordings was independent of the technology used to create them – you could hold and view a hard copy document in your hand. But even in those early days, time-sequenced recordings depended on the technology used to create them to render them back into a usable form. Our success in dealing with technology changes and rendering early recordings for the masses has been mixed at best. Hard copy documents and images, however, were never an issue until recent times. How will future generations deal with those post cards, letters to the family, and photographs that have now been replaced by “Word documents”, email, and digital images on the computer? Consumers need to become aware of long-term storage and preservation issues that relate to the preservation of the data behind digital documents including photographic images, letters, etc. The more obvious issues, such as accidental or catastrophic data loss and hardware format evolution, have been recognized by the archiving community. Consumers need to be alerted to these issues and be prepared to develop preservation strategies as well. However, longer-term issues beyond routine backup and migration of data also need to be considered. The basic solution of preservation via human-readable hardcopy documents and images is one option, but this raises a fundamental question regarding image preservation that transcends even the more complex solutions—the long-term stability of the chosen media, whether digital or analog. This paper provides an update on preservation strategies for the consumer. While the familiar advice to “make a hard copy” provides a solid foundation, we go beyond this recommendation, with the intent to raise awareness of the need to create a long-term preservation plan for documents and images, and the data behind them.

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Joseph E. LaBarca, "Preservation of Documents and Photographic Images: Long Term Strategies for Future Generationsin Proc. IS&T Archiving 2011,  2011,  pp 136 - 143,

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