The first Tuesday of every November is World Digital Preservation Day: a day when all digital archivists and preservationists get to toot our horn a bit and celebrate the work of ourselves and our colleagues over the last year. It’s also a day where digital preservation practitioners talk about what everyone could be doing to ensure their digital files are preserved for long-term access.
You may have heard of personal digital archiving. The Library of Congress has done great work over the years to create a robust online website to help guide anyone looking to maintain and preserve their digital files – from the hundreds of photographs on your phone to the paper you wrote on Word Perfect back in college. I recommend digging into that website if you’re looking to get started on this work. What I want to do with this post is give you some places to start
A really great – and easy potentially? – place to start is by giving your files meaningful, and computer friendly names. The first rule here, is as Edna tells as above, don’t include any spaces in your file names. Your computer, and future digital archivist, will thank you for that. Use a hyphen or underscore if you want to separate words in your file name.
The next step is to name your files meaningfully and uniquely. Choose the main subject of the photo as your base and go from there. For example, if it’s a picture of your cat, you would use their name. Now, let’s add more information, use the date you took the photo to make it even more unique. If you take more than more photo of your cat a day (no judgement), add a number after the date so the file name is complete unique. You now have a file name that looks something like Whiskers-11052020-001. Not only is that unique, but you can also get a lot of information about the photo just from the file name. You know what the photo is about, when you took it and that it was the first photo that day you took of that subject.
Now, that means that file names may also get long and complicated very quickly if you try to list all the things in a complex photo as part of the file name. This is where using file folders, or collections, can help in personal collections. Make sure you are “filing” your photographs under the correct folders. So for example, you may take a lot of pictures at your child’s birthday party but want to name the images something other than KatieBdayParty-110520202-001 etc. If you do, just name a folder KatiesBdayParty2020 and put all the photos in the same folder. that way, you know the event and can name files more usefully like KatieandGrandma-11052020
If you have a lot of files, renaming can seem like a daunting task but I’m actually hiding two tasks in it – surprise! To rename files means you have to look at them all again and this is a great time to decide if you actually need to keep all 50 photos of the same sunset you took on your vacation last year or if maybe just a couple will suffice to help you remember the moment. Deleting digital files you no longer want or need is a necessary part of personal digital archiving (and any archiving) and it means a couple of great things. One, you’ll have more digital storage space to create more files in the future and two, you aren’t creating such a large personal digital archive that even you don’t remember what half of the files are anymore or can’t afford the storage space to keep it all
Which brings me to my last tip of the day – make sure you are storing your files in more than one location. The last thing you want is for if your computer or phone dies, you lose all your files on those devices especially when there are some easy, and fairly cheap, solutions. For your home laptop, make sure you have an external hard drive that you back up your laptop to on a regular basis. A lot of laptops have built in programs to help with this task (Time Machine on Macs, Backup on Windows) so all you have to do is plug in the external drive, open up your machine’s program and let it do its thing! Doing this on a regular basis (bi-weekly or monthly depending on your use case) means your laptop, and all its data, is safe even if you encounter the blue screen of death.
For your phone, your provider may have a cheap service to pay for on a monthly basis that will back up your data for you which can just be included in your monthly bill or your phone of preference (Apple or Google) may have a service to pay for to make sure your data are available on devices other than your phone and they are safely backed up through the service. The cloud is your friend especially with your phone data!
Hopefully your are feeling empowered, and inspired, this World Digital Preservation Day to start personal digital archiving at home – go forth and archive!