Nearly all of us have elements of our lives saved on some kind of digital media. What a lot of people don’t realize is that digital media is a lot more vulnerable than their paper or physical counterparts. Paper can last for hundreds of years is conditions are right. VHS tapes like those pictured above have a life span of of 10-30 years and that length of time isn’t guaranteed. They may last that long if conditions are ideal and even then it literally isn’t written in stone. The same goes for any other digital media–CD’s, DVD’s, floppy discs and hard drives. Even if the media is still good, the equipment to access the information may not be available anymore. You have to actively work on updating both the file and storage formats if you want to keep the information that is contained on your storage devices
One librarian in Virginia decided to help people with their personal archiving activities and help them update their storage media. She put together a personal archiving station with a VCR, laptop, video capture device and a scanner for less than $300. She found great success during the initial phase of her program. The equipment allowed people to transfer their memories without having to buy the equipment themselves or pay a business to do it for them. The librarian also gave them a training session to get them started. It just goes to show that where there is a will and demand, there is a way.
The Library of Congress’ Personal Archiving site has a lot of good information on preserving your digital photos, audio, video, email, records and websites.