Born-digital materials are created on a computer, digital camera, or other digital device, and include emails, documents, e-books, websites, forums, communities, wikis, social media sites, digital photographs, videos, and sound recordings. The Library of Congress has developed Personal Digital Archiving, a set of tools to help individuals preserve their digital materials. Click on the links below to learn more about how to identify your materials, select what to save, and organize and store your materials.
A series of articles by Mike Ashenfelder on Personal Digital Archiving offer tips on:
The Digital Stewardship Curriculum is a publicly available, self-guided series of educational resources covering all aspects of the Digital Stewardship Lifecycle - bringing materials in, managing and organizing materials, preserving materials, and providing access to materials - all the way from physical materials to digital files. Each part of the curriculum encourages participants to tailor policies, procedures, tools, and other resources based on cultural and community needs. As part of the Sustainable Heritage Network, managed by the Center for Digital Scholarship and Curation at Washington State University, the Digital Stewardship Curriculum is intended for cultural heritage professionals working in or with Indigenous communities starting digitization and other digital projects. Many of the topics are also replicable for small, non-Indigenous institutions.
You probably use social media to share and store photos, videos, and information about your work. Don’t assume materials are archived because they are on a social media platform! Learn about collecting and preserving social media content, and take steps to ensure you won’t lose any posts that you create. North Carolina State University offers a Social Media Archives Toolkit, which includes tools for harvesting social media content.
Be aware if you store your digital files on external hardware like CDs, hard drives, or flash drives. These materials don't last forever, as explained in How Long Will Your Digital Storage Media Last? It's important to backup these items to an outside source, but how many backup copies should you have? At a minimum, you need 2 copies, in 2 places, in 2 different media types. A safer plan is to keep 3 copies in 2 places and media types. Make sure to keep an inventory of the location of all the copies. Your organization's needs and resources will determine how much backup you have. For more information, visit the National Digital Stewardship Alliance's Levels of Preservation.
There are free, open source tools that can help manage and preserve your digital assets. While these tools require some tech-savvy to use, they can be an affordable way to improve the security and sustainability of your digital files. The following tool directs you to these resources, provides a glossary of some of the common terms about digital files and preservation which you may encounter, and links to other glossaries in case you come across a term not covered in this tool.
As internet platforms change, older websites can lose functionality or become entirely inaccessible. There are ways to archive your website to ensure it will not be lost.
Webrecorder is a free tool to create high-fidelity, interactive recordings of any web site you browse, as well as a platform for making those recordings accessible. Read an article published by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation about Webrecorder and the challenge of preserving online media and internet art.
In 2014, the Library of Congress' Music Division announced a new initiative to collect and preserve websites about the performing arts. As more institutions see the need to archive websites, you may be able to find a repository to help save your website. Use the resources below to learn how you can archive your own website.
Digital Reformatting is the process of digitizing non-digital materials. However, digitizing is not preserving! To digitally preserve non-digital items, the material must be captured in uncompressed or losslessly compressed files during digitization. (Lossless compression creates files that take up less storage space, and the compression can be reversed using an algorithm.) The creation of these lossless files ensures the quality will not decrease as the preservation file is reformatted and migrated to prevent obsolescence as technology changes. Protect your preservation files. Create compressed access copies for use. Uncompressed files are large. For example, 1 hour of lossless video is about 100 GB of data. Form partnerships to help maintain safe storage for your large digital files. Preservation files are too big to store in the “Cloud.” Uploading them at regular browser speeds would take several days!Planning to digitize your AV materials? View our guides for AV Digitization Best Practices and AV Metadata Template.