26 April 2007

Keeping archives accessible as technology shifts

How are you storing your archival data? Will it still be accessible down the road?

County and state archives are dealing with changing technology for the masses of records they keep. Here are are two stories dealing with these issues.

In Florence, Alabama, the Times Daily reports:

Mindy Hurt has worked for the Lauderdale County Commission long enough to remember when data was saved on eight-inch floppy disks.

In fact, she still has unopened boxes of the large disks in a cabinet in her office.

Because of fast-paced changes in technology, however, those disks are virtually useless, since the county has no way to access the data.

The story jumps to the Library of Congress, where Guy Lamolinara says

"Paper is in many ways more stable than digital content," he said, but "think about Web sites. How many that existed 10 years ago still exist today? And in what form? Web sites can change daily or even by the minute."

The second story is about the Washington State Archives:

Inside the storage area, row after row of movable shelving is filled with boxes, enormous leather-bound volumes and stacks of documents. The room is kept at a constant temperature of 60 degrees and between 40-45 percent humidity. Paper, even if it is more than 100 years old, absorbs and releases moisture as its environment changes, according to Scott Sackett, an archivist at the central branch. The best thing you can do for the documents is keep them at a consistent temperature and humidity, he said.

Records keep growing and so do storage problems.

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