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The Long Term Fate of Our Digital Belongings: Toward a Service Model for Personal Archives

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We conducted a preliminary field study to understand the current state of personal digital archiving in practice. Our aim is to design a service for the long-term storage, preservation, and access of digital belongings by examining how personal archiving needs intersect with existing and emerging archiving technologies, best practices, and policies. Our findings not only confirmed that experienced home computer users are creating, receiving, and finding an increasing number of digital belongings, but also that they have already lost irreplaceable digital artifacts such as photos, creative efforts, and records. Although participants reported strategies such as backup and file replication for digital safekeeping, they were seldom able to implement them consistently. Four central archiving themes emerged from the data: (1) people find it difficult to evaluate the worth of accumulated materials; (2) personal storage is highly distributed both on- and offline; (3) people are experiencing magnified curatorial problems associated with managing files in the aggregate, creating appropriate metadata, and migrating materials to maintainable formats; and (4) facilities for long-term access are not supported by the current desktop metaphor. Four environmental factors further complicate archiving in consumer settings: the pervasive influence of malware; consumer reliance on ad hoc IT providers; an accretion of minor system and registry inconsistencies; and strong consumer beliefs about the incorruptibility of digital forms, the reliability of digital technologies, and the social vulnerability of networked storage.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2006

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  • The IS&T (digital) Archiving Conference offers a unique opportunity for imaging scientists and those working in the cultural heritage community (curators, archivists, librarians, photographers etc) from around the world to come together to discuss the most pressing issues related to the digital preservation and stewardship of hardcopy, and other cultural heritage documents and objects. Authors come from museums, archives, libraries, government institutions, industry and academia. Cutting edge topics related to multispectral and 3D imaging, as well as best practices for workflow, sharing, standards, and asset/collection management and dissemination are explored in papers presented at this annual, international event.

    Please note: For purposes of its Digital Library content, IS&T defines Open Access as papers that will be downloadable in their entirety for free in pertuity. Copyright restrictions on papers vary; see individual paper for details.

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