Challenges of preservation in a digital world

The New York Times highlighted the unique challenges of archival preservation of born-digital materials in an article  published yesterday.

The articles, “Fending Off Digital Decay, Bit by Bit,” focuses on Emory University’s Salman Rushdie collection and the digital materials included in it. (TDL member UT Austin’s Harry Ransom Center also gets a mention.)

An excerpt from the article:

Electronically produced drafts, correspondence and editorial comments, sweated over by contemporary poets, novelists and nonfiction authors, are ultimately just a series of digits — 0’s and 1’s — written on floppy disks, CDs and hard drives, all of which degrade much faster than old-fashioned acid-free paper. Even if those storage media do survive, the relentless march of technology can mean that the older equipment and software that can make sense of all those 0’s and 1’s simply don’t exist anymore.

Imagine having a record but no record player.

All of which means that archivists are finding themselves trying to fend off digital extinction at the same time that they are puzzling through questions about what to save, how to save it and how to make that material accessible.

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