I’m often asked why the preservation of digital materials is so complicated. After all, isn’t it simply about the storage and migration, or emulation, of digital objects and metadata? Why do you need all of these policies and procedures around a data or digital archive? Why can’t you just store the digital files and leave them?
Recently, Forbes.com opened an email time capsule the company set aside a mere five years ago. The blog post illustrates some of the difficulties of preserving digital materials over time — in this case, only half a decade.
First, I’ll describe the purpose of the experiment.
The experiment, which we called an “E-Mail Time Capsule,” was part of a special report on Communicating. We invited our readers to communicate with their future selves by writing a letter, which we would store for them, and send at a later date.
Over 140,000 people participated, choosing whether they wanted their capsule “opened” in one, three, five, ten or twenty years.
In 2006 and 2008, we successfully sent over 40,000 messages. And now we’ve hit the five year mark, and are in the process of sending 17,000 emails to our users –half a decade after they wrote them.
Simple, right? You set up three geographically disparate servers, and set one to send if the first one doesn’t, and the third to send the emails if the first two servers fail. However, it wasn’t quite that simple, as the author notes.
Continue reading “Preservation Policies, Forbes, and an Email Time Capsule”