Thursday, January 22, 2015

Is Digital Really The Way To Go?

Those of you who know me know that I am a bit of a "techie".  I love technology, use it all the time, and am usually the first one in line, jumping up and down and waving my hands, asking to be the first to try something new.

I have spent a lot of time over the last two years going paperless - which means that most of my stuff is stored on my computer, in the cloud, on a thumb drive, or on a CD.

I spent months digitizing all my family photos.  Not only is this a very convenient way to store and share them, but I always thought it was pretty safe as well.  And I still think it is.  But ...

One of the reasons I have all this ephemera (books, photos, documents, etc.) is that it was physically stored in boxes for decades.  Every once in a while I wonder what happens if Google, Evernote, or Dropbox go out of business.  What happens to all my stuff then?  Then there is the reality of changing technology.  Something that is currently cutting edge and state-of-the-art is already becoming obsolete - soon to be replaced by newer, better, smaller ways to do things.  There was a time when I thought a seven-inch floppy disk was high-tech.  I now store 32GB of data on a micro SD card smaller than my pinkie finger nail.

A recent article on addresses, "Why Your Digital Photos Might Die Before Your Grandkids See Them."  It is a good article, and I recommend reading it to anyone who is relying on digital media to store their family history "stuff".  It covers the pros and cons of numerous storage mediums and why they are good or bad for the long term.  You also may want to go back into the archives of this blog and re-read my 11 Dec 2014 post entitled, "Keep It Safe".  A Guardian Storage box could prove to be a good investment.

How will I deal with this issue?  I have a plan.  The goal, at the end of my family history research journey (that point where I can finally cancel my subscription, have committed to a numbering system for my 2,300 + ancestors, organized my trees and published my narrative) is to put it all in printed form.  The story, the family trees, the social history, photos, documents - everything - in a book that will get published and distributed to my family members.

Everything worth sharing and memorializing will be there.  Then, the actual, physical photos, documents, etc. will be organized, cataloged and stored in archival storage boxes - so someone else down the line can actually handle my great-grandmother's bridal veil and the small book of psalms my grandfather carried with him throughout his WWI military service.  Just in case my digital storage friends go belly-up, nothing will get lost.

As good as all the digital storage is - there is no way of knowing if the technology you are using today will be readable in another fifty years.  So in the end, you might be better off hanging on to all that stuff.

-- submitted by Denise Doyon

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