Friday, April 29, 2011

Digital Concerns

To celebrate Preservation Week, I’ll be offering three blog entries this week that offer a personal perspective on some general preservation issues.  This is the third.

Dennis Pelley, the husband of my sister Jamie, died a year ago this week.  For the memorial services (and as a gift for his many friends and family members), Jamie made a beautiful Windows Moviemaker presentation that celebrated his life through family photographs and a soundtrack of some of the meaningful songs of his life.

Jamie saved the presentation on a bunch of DVDs.  A year later, some of the DVDs work fine but others refuse to play on any of our computers.  Some work on certain computers but not others.  Jamie wants me to investigate this situation because she wants some assurance that this particular family item can be preserved.  (This isn’t the blog entry that she’s requested.  I will get to it but not yet.  This is just an expression of concern.)

The digital world worries me.  So many people have digitized their photos, movies, and tapes with the expectation that these meaningful items will endure in their new formats.  But all I see are software programs becoming obsolete at a rapid pace and popular new formats quickly replacing old ones in the marketplace.  It wasn’t all that long ago that we transferred some old 8mm family films to video.  Now we no longer have a working VCR to play them on.

I have photographs from 100 years ago that beautifully evoke a very different time and a much slower pace.  All I have to do is take them out and look at them.  Meanwhile Jamie has a DVD of photograph images that won’t play on any of our computers.  It’s just a disk with a label scribbled by a Sharpie.  In just one year, the content is already inaccessible.

© 2011 Lee Price

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