Genealogy: Long-term maintenance of digital image files

Long-term maintenance of digital image filesDigital preservation and long-term maintenance of your digital files is a very serious matter.  With technology changing so fast, there are no absolutes about the exact formula for digitally preserving our family heritage—which will be a combination of artifacts that include text, data, and images, audio and video.  However, there are some best practices of archivists that have responsibility for preserving our national and cultural heritage that we can learn from.

Key preservation principles

  • Select and create digital collections of long-lasting value.
  • Store digital media with care.
  • Develop preservation strategies and implement them systematically.
  • Consider a hybrid approach where hard copy print is created in addition to digital files.

Storage requirements for digital files

  • Store master images on high quality, industry standard digital tape, magnetic discs, or CD-R. (The gold colored CD-R is of much better quality than the silver ones.)
  • CD-Rs should only be labeled with archival quality adhesive labels and not with markers.
  • Create backups of the master files and store them off-site in a secure location. It is recommended that three copies be kept of each file.
  • Store media in a controlled environment. The accepted ranges for temperature are from 62-68 degrees (65 degrees is optimum) and relative humidity should be within a 35-45% range with 40% optimum. Consistency of temperature and humidity is more important than absolute levels. The storage area should not be in an attic, basement or other area prone to sudden changes in temperature or humidity.
  • Store all media away from strong magnetic fields.
  • Maintain a clean, dust-free environment.
  • Minimize the handling of master images and the media on which they are stored.
  • Digital files maintained for an extended period should be refreshed periodically by placing them onto new media. Follow the recommendations of the manufacturer.
  • Develop a system to periodically check the readability of digital files.

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