Category Archives: Project

Personal Digital Preservation: Part 2 Theory into Practice

I tried to give myself the best chance of success or the best chance to get a quick sense of accomplishment and chose a smaller collection of digital photographs to begin my project. According to the Library of Congress’s information on personal archiving, there are four suggested steps to take when working to preserve your digital photos.

1.) Identify where you have digital photos

2.) Decide which photos are most important

3.) Organize your selected photos

4.) Make copies and store them in different places

Identify where you have digital photos

This part was quite easy since I am targeting a certain folder of photos that have already been moved off of my camera’s SD card and saved onto my laptop. However, once I have worked through my backlog of photos I will need to once again look on my camera for photos that still only exist on my SD card as well as my cellphone that has probably hundreds of photos on its internal memory that I have not bothers to transfer to my laptop.

Decide which photos are the most important 

Time to get rid of all those duplicate, fuzzy, and um pointless photos. Going through this portion of the process reminded me of David Weinberger’s Everything is Miscellaneous. He rightly states that “since our cameras apply names like ‘DSC00165.jpg’ to our photos it’s easier to keep bad photos than to throw them out”. When I first read that passage I could only chuckle and nod. I am guilty of keeping more photos than I should just because comparing and then committing to deleting one of the photos is a heavy responsibility.

However, I did delete many photos from my vacation photos. I got rid of all those duplicates (with and without flash, with different white balances set, just a bit more focused or centered). I also deleted many pointless photos (if I can’t remember why I took the photo less than a year later then I really do not need to commit to keeping it forever).

Organize your selected photos

The meat of the project! As long as you do not need to pick out the best photo of a flower out of 20 possible choices, this step will most likely be the most time consuming. This step might also become somewhat repetitive. I would suggest listening to music, watching a movie, or watching a television show while you add metadata to your photos.

Time to get rid of those horrible camera created names and actually give your photos descriptive names. Now this can be accomplished in a variety of fashions depending on your personal information management style and how you personally like to name files. You can incorporate location, date, subject, or just describe what is in the photo. I went the last route since my photos will remain in a file that identifies the photos within as vacation photos from Cannon Beach, OR. My file names might not be scientific or up to library or archive standards, but I will know what the photo is and so would most anyone else.

Next it is time to add your metadata! I did not use any fancy programs. I opened my folder of photos and then went photo by photo and right clicked then selected the properties menu. Under the details tab, I could add title, subject, keywords, and comments. For my more visual learners, here is a screen shot of the metadata I added for one photo:

Properties Menu for photo

I had keywords for the place, significant objects or people in the photo, and more generic terms like “beach”. When it comes to keywords you can use as many or as few as you like. I always try to strive for a middle ground and only add keywords for the important aspects of the photo (for example if there is a food stand in the background of a photo, but obviously you and your friends are standing around a statue of some historic persona I would not add “food truck” as a keyword). In the comment section I added a more narrative  description of the photo sometimes placing the photo in context of a sequence of events that the title, subject, and keywords won’t convey otherwise.

Make copies and store them in different places

After completing all of that metadata, first give yourself a pat on the back then get all those pictures saved on different types of media pronto! What this means is to save your photos on different types of storage devices such as SD cards, flash drives, CDs, DVDs, external hard drives, in the cloud, or on a social media site such as Facebook, Flickr, or Instagram. If your photos are new you can incorporate your metadata creation into your “sharing” habits by processing your photos during the same chunk of time you would have devoted to uploading to these sites. I know my comment section reflects my captions from Facebook.

The Library of Congress also suggests keeping your copies in different locations. Maybe store a flash drive at a relative’s house or in a safety deposit box or a fire proof safe. LOC also goes as far as suggesting you keep a physical manifest of your photos with other important documents (this may help in remembering which photos are saved in what formats and where physically you have them).

Final Thoughts

Also remember every few years you need to check on your photos! You need to make sure you can still access them and that your storage devices are still working. You may also need to migrate your photos to new media. CDs as a storage media might not be around for much longer so photos saved on this media might need to be transferred to it a new media. Also make sure that your photos are saved in an open format (.jpg or .tiff). Also make sure your metadata shows up on other computers (plug your flashdrive with the folder of photos into someone else’s computer and see what shows up). In the future you may need to learn how to change the format of your photos to keep them current with file format changes.

I know this all seems like a big investment of time and energy (and in many cases money), but it will be well worth it some day when you can share these photos instead of bemoaning the hard drive crash of 2015.

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Personal Digital Preservation: Part 1

In the library, archive, and museum professional world (the LAM world) digital preservation is a hot topic and one that I am very interested in. I have always loved viewing history from a very personal stand point. My bibliographies for my history papers in undergrad always had a diary, biography, or autobiography among my other more scholarly or pertinent sources. So even before I set my eyes on studying library science, I would sit and ponder how historians would get their hands on such personal sources in the future. I know my very boring and at times angsty high school diary only exists in LiveJournal if it is even still there. I actually have very little personal or professional writing that exists in the personal world. All of my thoughts are recorded in bits.

I know this scares the daylights out of many of my LAM brethren. I have heard whispers of a new dark ages when all of our digital documents will gone. Either we won’t be able to access them or the bits will be corrupted and irretrievable. These dire predictors then usually turn to the nearest library student and announce that “Your generation will have to figure out a solution to this situation”.

Well here I am doing my part to solve the problem. This week while I am relaxing between quarters of library school, I have decided to take a good look at what I am doing to help preserve my digital documents. I have decided to focus on my digital photos since besides being uploaded to Facebook I do very little with them. My only saving grace is that I separate groups of photos by event and do not just dump all of them into one mega photos folder.

Much of the work I have ahead of me is renaming the picture files from the automated names given by my camera to something more descriptive and then adding extra metadata. My next step is to make sure I have several copies on different types of media (the LOCKS step).This way later viewers will know where my photos were taken, why they were taken, and who are in them.

Readers, if you would like to help preserve your photos, videos, blogs, or documents for the future I would start by visiting the Library of Congress’s website devoted to personal archiving. There are also two videos put together by LOC concerning preserving digital photos that I viewed that helped to get me motivated and on the right track. The first is a bit corny, but shows the type of metadata that should be added to photos. The second video is a recording from a personal archiving day during Preservation Week 2010.

I will report back later with my experience adding metadata to my personal photo collection. Hopefully I will have tips and advice for you all. Remember if we want to save our history for the future we all need to have a hand in it. We can not just assume someone else will save it all later. We all need to have our own little digital box of photos stashed away.

Continued in Part 2 Theory into Practice – http://wp.me/p2cBXj-o

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Project: Local History & New Residents in Kirkland Washington

Background: As part of my Master’s program I am required to complete a course on instruction. My quarter long project for this course is to create a teaching or training module with the subject and population of my choice.

Subject: I chose for this project to focus on a local history program for new residents to a community. As a new resident myself I have found reorienting myself to my new community’s local history very hard. Diving into detailed history monographs or approaching a historical society without any basic knowledge of the community’s history can be a very intimidating. I am hoping by reaching out to new residents who were interested in their previous home’s history would become interested in their new home’s as well. I also hope this will increase new residents participation in local history societies as well.

Process: I hope to develop a history lecture module or series of modules that introduce local history to new residents by a new resident. One of the reasons I believe that new residents don’t connect with their new community’s local history is connected with the lack of personal connection they feel to their new place in the world. A national survey in 1994 spearheaded by Roy Rosenzweig and David Thelen looked into how Americans interact with the past. The book, The Presence of the Past: Popular Uses of History in American Life,  breaks down the findings of the survey (an awesome book for anyone interested in local history and why normal people suddenly become history fanatics after school). In it the authors state that “Almost every American deeply engages the past, and the past that engages them most deeply is that of their family” (22). So by removing these people from their hometowns which most likely has some sort of family tie, these new residents are removed from the most compelling source of historical interest. What historical societies in these new communities need to do is replace this familial interest with a new personal connection.

I hope to provide this new connection in my modules. Hopefully by introducing new residents to different local history topics, a personal connection can be made. This can be a topic with as simple a connection as the history of the neighborhood the resident is now living or a more complex social issue such as the history of transit in the area.

Outcome: I hope to help grow the interest of local history in a very booming population in my new community. This will help grow interest in the local historical society which would call for more organization in their holdings leading to such projects as an online database. This growth will lead to a much richer historical environment for the whole community and also a much more inviting one.

I hope to keep you all updated on my project and what sort of feedback I get back from my community. As of right now I hope to partner with the Kirkland Heritage Society and the King County Library to spread the message to the community. I have also been very inspired by Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) and their Nearby History program (which might be where new residents end up if they become interested in detailed research).

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