Digital Preservation: SF Historical Collection

(Originally posted on March 31, 2012 for IST 677 – Creating, Managing, and Preserving Digital Assets at Syracuse University.)

I was unable to find anything concrete on the San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection’s digital preservation efforts, but it seems that the majority of the San Francisco Public Library’s digitization programs are outsourced to the Internet Archive, a San Francisco-based nonprofit dedicated to creating an Internet library. Henry has been writing about blogging about it this semester: IAcopyright andmetadata. (He’ll probably have more information about the IA’s digital preservation efforts too.)

The Internet Archive is certainly involved in digital preservation, but only briefly mentions storage and preservation at the bottom of its About page. Specifically, it identifies accidents, migration and the accessibility of data formats as the main issues to guard against.

From the site:

Preservation is the ongoing task of permanently protecting stored resources from damage or destruction. The main issues are guarding against the consequences of accidents and data degradation and maintaining the accessibility of data as formats become obsolete.

Accidents: Any medium or site used to store data is potentially vulnerable to accidents and natural disasters. Maintaining copies of the Archive’s collections at multiple sites can help alleviate this risk. Part of the collection is already handled this way, and we are proceeding as quickly as possible to do the same with the rest.

Migration: Over time, storage media can degrade to a point where the data becomes permanently irretrievable. Although DLT tape is rated to last 30 years, the industry rule of thumb is to migrate data every 10 years. We no longer use tapes for storage, however. Please take a look at our page on our Petabox system for more information on our storage systems.

Data formats: As advances are made in software applications, many data formats become obsolete. We will be collecting software and emulators that will aid future researchers, historians, and scholars in their research.

Although brief, this small section on storage and preservation does give me the impression that the Internet Archive has thought pretty extensively about digital preservation, and has taken as many precautions as possible. This is likely one reason why the SF Historical Photograph Collection/SFPL has partnered with the Internet Archive to make use of its scanning/storage services. As far as recommendations, it’s difficult for me to adequately venture any. It would seem that the SF Historical Photograph Collection and the Internet Archive are doing everything possible to ensure digital preservation.

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