Preservation in the past was relatively simple. Items were created in a physical form that could be preserved with little to no maintenance. Your great-grandmother's diary or love letters with your great-grandfather are probably still happily sitting in an attic or basement waiting to be discovered. While it is best that these documents from the past are preserved in a stable environment (not a damp basement, or a hot attic), many are resilient and continue to survive. Paper documents do require some preservation maintenance but not nearly as much as digital documents do.
Presently, there is a strange mix of both physical and digital materials circulating. While the physical materials will likely survive for a long period of time, the digital items are less certain. Digital documents require consistant maintenaince to ensure their survial in the future. Our generation must work to create an awareness of the fragility of digital materials and educate ourselves on the best practices for their long(er)-term preservation. The very best practice would be to print everything out, however, that is not a realistic goal. We must educate ourselves about how digital media works and how we can prolong the survival of our digital heritage.
Many of the technological devices used to store digital materials, such as CD-ROMS, flashdrives, and hard drives are in constant fear of obsolesence. Technology changes at such a fast rate that it can be difficult to keep up with the new advancements. Floppy discs used to be floppy, then they were hard, then they were obsolete. When was the last time you saw a computer with a floppy disc drive? The same thing still happens to modern technology. In fact, the USB will become a thing of the past before too long. USBs are being replaced by micro USB flash drives which fit tablets and cell phones. Read more about this change here.
How will these memories be preserved in the future? Can digital images last long-term?
Digital images are not a stable format for long-term preservation, however, with some effort and knowledge we can ensure the long(er)-term preservation of these digital memories. Check out our Best Practices page for more information.