Digital Preservation

I’d like to focus on the challenge posed by the constantly changing hardware and programming languages used in digital preservation. This is something I think a lot about for my digital archive project. It’s hard to sink a lot of time and effort into building a digital collection on a WordPress site, when I know nothing about coding, content management systems like WordPress, servers, hosting services, etc. But I’m moving forward, taking precautions as best I can with the expectation that I’m going to need to start over from scratch several times. Using WordPress seems like a safe bet now, for a digital novice like myself. But who knows what will happen five years down the line. 

Without know what kinds of technological changes I should anticipate, my strategy has been to store my collection offline and on the Internet Archive, and then link each item to my website. Most of the materials that I want to include in my collection were born digital, like news articles and Amnesty International reports. So they can easily be moved from one page/site to another, in case I need to start over and build a new website from scratch. I’ve created a library with the Internet Archive where I’m collecting permalinks and uploading videos, PDFs, and images. I can then link the individual items from my library to my website. And if something happens with my website—if the hosting service goes bankrupt, or if WordPress jacks up the subscription fees—the really crucial material should survive, and I should be able to link them the a new website.

I also keep the same library offline using Zotero. So even if something happens with my IA library, the permalinks should still work and I should be able to upload the library again. I believe that Zotero and the IA have similar metadata fields, so I won’t be in danger of losing that either. 

My videos pose a much bigger challenge, however. I currently use the H.264 codex for my videos, which I believe is what YouTube uses. But I’ve read that H.265 (which is better for reasons I don’t fully understand) could soon become the new standard, and YouTube might adopt that standard. It is already getting very expensive for me to buy external hard drives large enough to store all of my videos, including the originals, the Adobe Premiere files, and the edited finals converted into H.264. I don’t know if I can realistically continue to store all these files from every interview I do, so that I can convert them to new codex as they come out. Alternatively, I don’t know if I can just leave them up on YouTube either. How long will it be before older video formats are no longer supported? 

Of course, the biggest challenge is my own tech-illiteracy and my inability to understand all the relevant factors and anticipate new trends in technology. 

One thought on “Digital Preservation”

  1. I really appreciated reading about your concerns with digital preservation because as much as our projects speak to the issues at hand (and that matter to us/our communities), they still say something about us as researchers/people.

    It’s a scary thought to think about what would/could happen to “data” if/when the Internet crashes/gets outmoded/etc.

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