The Memories & Nostalgia Collection






Keeping Memories Alive.

Digital storage solution or Identity crisis – where have all the records gone

We instinctively keep sentimental possession and the things that we keep allow us to understand who we are and communicate that identity to others. Keeping sentimental possessions increase our sense of identity and interacting with our possessions gives us a sense of continuity, reminding us of who we were and providing a visible picture of who we are.

Given the importance of our cherished memories and treasured possessions, it is essential that we are able to store them, protected them and preserves them for generations.

Most people would assume that the wonders of today’s fast changing technologically driven worlds would hold the answer to preserving your memories and possessions. Technology delivers enormous benefits in the modern world today and yet surprisingly permanence is currently not one of those benefits. Digital and electronically stored information will not remain accessible unless it is actively and consistently maintained, managed and migrated .It is not practical to store information digitally and then put it away for decades and expect it to be retrievable, in the way that you might do with say an old diary or letter. A dormant collection of stored digital data may not be functional if kept for a long period of time.

Today, We communication with: Mobiles, Telephones, skype E-mails Instant Messaging Text Message Blogs Internet Minidisk Webcam, Video conferencing Organisers Talking books Music and Video Downloads /Ipods Phone Camera’s Digital Camera

In Today’s World: We Bank online We buy online We pay electronically We have E-tickets Ebooks Electronic Invoices We file online GPS Virtual reality Digital downloads Most types of modern technology do not produce generous outputs that will serve as lasting confirmation of historical fact. Those technologies that do create outputs are minimal e.g. E-Mails or, Etickets and online banking etc. Despite this we are asked to “Think before we Print “. However, if we do not print there is no sustainable record of fact that will survive. Many forms of modern technology only have digital traces and have no printable output. In those cases where there is a hard copy, we are advised that after use we should shred document and items with personal information to prevent ID fraud, again leaving little for the social historians of the next generation.

Modern Technology either leaves no sustainable trace of fact or the trace that it does leave is unlikely to survive very long due to technological obsolescence or due to the fact that the materials used are of poor quality and will not survive. This is a major problem that is not widely understood by the general public. We are living in a disposable society, a society where the cost of everything is being driven lower, low quality material are now common place and as a result these materials degrade quickly and anything important is lost due to this process. Most modern books will not survive because of low quality paper that they are printed on. Another example of the limited time cycle of technology is the fax. A faxed letter that may be just 5 years old will have turned into a blank sheet of paper.

Today’s technology offers great efficiency in communication and information distribution together with instant action and reaction. In addition, all of this also goes to support the goal of the paperless office and the ecological goals of using less paper resources whilst living in the Virtual World.

The world of technology is fast moving and obsolescence is a characteristic of this progress .We have seen in the last 25 years the appearance and disappearance of many information storage systems, changed formats or new programming languages or incompatible upgrades.

Floppy disks Zip disks Video 8 Tracks DVD HD DVD DAT tapes Cassette CD’s Fax Cine film Telex Blue Ray

The problem with these technologies is that they are superseded so quickly by new devices and either the data carrier becomes decayed or damaged or the device to replay them no longer exists. Over 20 % of the Jet Propulsion Labs data from the Viking Mars mission was lost due to the data being unreadable. The digital copies of the 1068 Doomsday Book only lasted 15 until the disks were considered unreadable. The actual Doomsday book (900 Years old) is safely preserved and still readable. It is an incredible irony that it is likely that we will have more stored records of the First World War than the recent Gulf War. This is simply because that information for the Gulf war was only stored in digital format and will therefore not survive. It is also a fact that we do not know what was the content of the first commercial web page or the First email?

The drive for efficiency continues to encourage people to correspond electronically in all area of life today. It is interesting to note that in this modern faceless society that you may asked to present tangible proof of who you are and without it your physical identity remain unconfirmed. This proof can be documentary or a password/code. The need to keep some original documents is almost without doubt. Even money has transformed from Gold (Physical money) to Paper money and now to digital credits.

The shortage and high cost of space at home or at work has forced people to consider the cost and the amount of available space to store items that you wish to keep. There is today a growing move towards domestic “Decluttering ” and home organisation. This discipline encourages us (logically) to remove and get rid off things that we no longer need and free valuable space. The challenge here is to decide what is important and by what means do you keep it. You can definitely save an enormous amount of space by storing items digitally, but are the things that you choose to save, safely stored .

Under pressure to reduce storage costs the move has been to use high capacity data storage devises that hold vast amounts of data electronically. The downside is that this is possibly a false economy. The Data storage systems used may not survive. Your dependency on machine-based technology to store and retrieve data output is likely to force you to migrate frequently to more up to date storage formats and systems. When you are machine read/store system dependant you are compelled to changing to a new systems or you will lose what is stored on current system. This has significant cost implications and needs to be understood at the outset .It has been estimated that the cost of storing digital data for the long term may be as much as 5 times higher than normal archival storage costs. This dilemma is no different for the general public who have Wedding Film etc on Cine Film or Video. Unless these formats are regularly changed they will probably both be obsolete in 10 years.

Miniaturisation has clear benefit and capacity and size of today storage devices is impressive, with tiny disks or tapes, holding huge amounts of data. These devices are so small that they easily be lost or mislaid or stolen. NASA recently lost 5 small tapes that happen to hold the original films of the Apollo 11 moon landing. It is interesting to see the way in which memory devices have changed over the years and the amount of data that you can store on these devices. If this pace of change continues (Moore’s Law) and the cost of storage continues to fall, it will soon be possible to store a recording of an entire life on a small hand held device. This is the goal of the “Memories for Life programme”. The ability to do this is not in doubt; the means to make this sustainable is the challenge.

Due to all this uncertainty and the void in available tangible records of modern life it is now even more important for all of us to keep our own permanent records of our lifetime. Tradition methods of keeping information using permanent Acid-Free papers and materials are still the only passive and certain way to ensure that your cherished memories and treasured possessions will survive for generations without the need to rely on machine readability.

It is an irony that we are told to save paper and save the forests. At the same time we are told that in order to save the planet (Including its records) we need to plant more tree’s that absorb Carbon Dioxide. Maybe managed forests hold the key to the survival of the planet and of our treasured records. Managed forests plant at least two new trees’ for each tree felled and by using permanent papers from certificated forests we can ensure that the paper we use is helping the environment and not harming it. At the same time storing important information and records on permanent paper will likely help theses very specific records of history to survive.

How to keep your Memories Safe

  1. Use high quality permanent materials for your information output. Like letter paper or Top quality photo paper and Inks.

  2. Always keep original safely stored

  3. For important items, never rely on solely “Digital only” formats or machine dependant formats.

  4. Where no record exists, create one. After an important phone call or conversation or at any important time in your life, write some note, like a diary page and create a permanent record of this memorable experience.

  5. The store documents that record your cherished memories and ensure you preserve your treasured possessions, use Archive grade (Acid Free) boxes and apply sensible store proceeded to ensure these items survive for generations.

  6. Use Acid-Free storage boxes to keep originals safe

  7. Store your items safely away from fluctuation in temperature and away from light.

  8. If you do use digital formats for storage, understand the need to update and migrate regularly to ensure the survival of the data.

Recent Press Articles:

The Times – 23 March 2007 – Ben Macintyre

The Financial Times - 17 March 2007 - 

The Telegraph – 5 November 2006 – Ben Fenton 

Wired – David Kushner

Important Links

Digital Preservation Coalition

Cornell Library

Library of Congress 

Wilhelm Research Institute 

Image Permanence Institute

Memories For Life


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