What are some of the challenges in digital archiving?

Sandi Davy Wednesday, March 6, 2013 - 15:00

Floppy DiscsArchives around the world have been challenged by the arrival of “the digital age”. As people, businesses and government departments move to creating and storing their information as digital files, archives are then behoven to take these files and keep them in an accessible format.

Currently, SRO WA transfers files from government agencies once they have been out of use for 25 years, in the case of computer files, this means that currently we are looking at digital documents created in 1988 and earlier. The files are in a number of what we would now think of as obsolete formats – such as: Word Perfect, Lotus123, Word-Star, and dBase – these ran on operating systems such as XENIX and Pro-DOS. Obviously getting the data out of these files at this time is extremely difficult, and it is only possible when we are able to access the media that the files have been stored on to begin with.

Recently, a number of 8 inch floppy discs came to light in our collection, and we are attempting to get the data off them before we can make an attempt at understanding what file format the data is in, opening it, and transferring it into a format that will be accessible in the future. In use from 1967 till around 1976, the 8 inch floppy stored just over 1 megabyte of data.

The issues of media obsolescence as well as file format obsolescence are not just for archives – everyone who has created files on a computer will at some point need to migrate the data into another format, and onto another storage medium. Be mindful of this as you create your own digital archive!