What is preservation?
Libraries, archives, and museums protect and store photos, documents, and other objects of historical value. Families may save old photographs and other items to pass down as mementos from one generation to the next. Often times, these items need to be stored in a special way so that they won’t get damaged. For example, books and photographs need to be protected from moisture, and a wedding dress will be stored in a special box to prevent the fabric from turning yellow.
Did you know that the files, photos, and music stored on your computer need to be “preserved” as well? If you have ever lost an important essay, project, or cherished photos because your computer crashed, you know the importance of keeping digital files safe. Follow these tips to protect your digital documents:
1. Choose your file names wisely.
When saving your files, give them descriptive file names that you
will remember later. lastname_paper.doc works in a pinch to submit your research paper to your instructor for grading, but after you save several documents this way it will be difficult to tell them apart unless you open them all one by one.
Avoid special characters such as / : * ? “< > | [ ] & $ , .
These characters can cause errors in your files and prevent them from opening.
Use underscores ( _ ) instead of periods or spaces.
Periods and spaces in your filenames could cause issues. Underscores will create the visual effect of spaces without the technical trouble.
Consider including dates.
If you have multiple copies of a document, dates can tell you which version is a draft and which version is the final product.
2. Organize your files and folders
Create a system that works for you and stick to it.
The more organized your files, the easier it will be to find what you need later on. For schoolwork, perhaps you’ll want to organize your files by school year and then by course name. After the quarter is over, you might consider deleting the files you don’t need any more and keep only the files you’ll want to refer back to later.
3. LOCKSS – Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe
Make at least two copies of important documents. Keep one copy on your computer, and save another in a different place – on a USB flash drive, external hard drive, or in cloud storage such as Dropbox. Having multiple copies of documents ensures that you’ll be able to access your information later in case your hard drive crashes, you spill coffee all over your laptop, a natural disaster occurs, etc…
For more information on preserving your digital memories, visit the Library
of Congress’ Personal Archiving page.