State Library of South Australia

Born Digital 2016 – The digital explosion! Are you preserving your digital memories?

Date: 12 October 2016

In August we joined libraries across Australia and New Zealand and participated in Born Digital 2016 and the inaugural digital preservation week. Born Digital 2016 aimed to raise awareness of the importance of preserving digital content for the public good and as a record of 21st century history. Digital preservation week marked 25 years since the first public website went live.

Born Digital 2016 Collection for the future National and State Libraries Australasia
Collecting for the future

National and State Libraries of Australasia rolled out events and online activities that explored questions about collecting and preserving digital content and examined the technical, social and philosophical questions of our digital lives.

Throughout the week each library published the Born Digital series of online interviews with experts in a range of disciplines from astronomy to journalism. They discussed the profound importance of digital preservation to their work, including:

  • Science and space with Dr Alan Duffy
  • Indigenous voices with Dr Rachael Ka'ai-Mahuta
  • Truth and history with John Birmingham
  • Digital lifestyles with Dr Rebecca Huntley
  • Play with Steven O'Donnell and Stephanie Bendixsen (AKA Bajo and Hex from TV's Good Game)

'Preserving your digital memories workshop'

In line with the theme of 'Digital Lifestyles', our Library staff developed and presented a 'Preserving Your Digital Memories' workshop to a full house of 75 patrons. Staff used Library and personal archival materials and examples, and focussed on the types of digital archives and materials that may be found in the home.

The workshop struck a chord with audience members. There was lively discussion throughout the presentation and guests stayed long after it ended to share their digital stories. A gentleman has since donated photo albums of the Lehmann and Tonkin families, along with a folder with notes, letters and a family history of the Tonkin family. He is a descendant of both families.

Preserving digital memories is obviously a topic in need of discussion and also links in with the concept of increasing digital literacy and citizenship for all Australians.

Digital information - What is it?

Since the first public website was published 25 years ago, there has been an explosion of digital content - from supercomputers exploring the universe to Facebook posts with friends. In a world where so much of our life is captured online, how do we make sense of all that information and make sure it isn't lost to future generations?

Our photo albums, letters, home movies and paper documents are a vital link to the past. Personal information we create today has the same value. The only difference is that much of it is now 'digital'. You may want to keep some digital photos, email, websites and other files so that you and your family can look at them now and in the future.

Digital records are much more complex than paper records. Not only do we need a computer we also need various software programs that run on different operating systems so we can view a document on a computer screen. This hardware/software configuration is in constant change.

Remember these old storage formats photo by Kimberley Dye 2016
Remember these? Old storage formats, photo by Kimberley Dye, 2016

There are thousands of different types of file extensions that exist today, have existed in the past, and will exist in the future. Unfortunately, we do not always have the ability to read digital records because the file format software that was used to create the records may no longer be in use.

Archivists and librarians are charged with permanently preserving and providing access to records of historic value. However, we are still really only at the beginning of learning all the techniques required to do this successfully.

Tips to preserving your digital memories

Preserving digital information is a new concept that most people have little experience with. It is important to think of digital preservation as an ongoing program, not a one-time project. Protecting your digital collections against potential risks and threats is an important step. Digital objects can be extremely fragile and once lost, can be lost forever.

When preserving your digital memories, think about the following simple steps:

  1. identify all your material
  2. decide which ones to keep and store
  3. organise by creating a list or inventory
  4. make at least two copies, and
  5. store your copies in different locations.

If you would like to learn more about how to keep your personal digital archives alive and accessible for future generations, read our new Library Guide Caring for Your Digital Collections.

We hope to run our 'Preserving Your Digital Memories' workshop again in the future.

Story by Kate Pulford, Archival Processing Officer

Back to Spring 2016 stories

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