Re: Preserving Historical Media

Tony Thompson

The comment on this topic, made in passing, about obsolescence of storage media, is far from trivial. Museums and libraries which began to store information on various kinds of disks had to transfer them to CD and then to DVD. A number then had policies to re-record those disks every five years, in case disks weren’t actually permanent. Today, disk readers are already obsolescent as solid-state storage gains ground. If you were an archive director, how would you like to confront the investment necessary to change storage media for a large collection?

And though it does appear that such formats as TIFF and PDF are holding up -- so far — they may well be superseded in the future. Obviously any archive has to stay on top of such issues and be proactive about changing.

An example often cited in this context is the change made by many libraries, to be able to dispose of voluminous newspaper holdings: just transfer them to microfilm! Problem solved, old newspapers dumped. Then over the years, the microfilm got scratched and faded in use, and the microfilm readers, now unsupported in many cases, were hard to repair. But the originals were gone. Lesson learned? We’ll see.

Tony Thompson

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