As part of it ongoing efforts to raise awareness of the many challenges of digital preservation, Anglesey Archives has created a mini “Chamber of Horrors” to illustrate how quickly new technologies are created and cast aside.

Taking its cue from Cornell University Library’s digital preservation tutorial  the digital items  on display remind us that although much of our digital information is still at hand, it is no longer readable because the media’s reader (the hardware or software) has been lost or become obsolete. This information is effectively ‘trapped’ within its own format.  This is true both for digitised records and for records that originate in electronic form (born digital).

Senior Archivist, Hayden Burns said that “we created the exhibition to remind our depositors that digital content is not only vulnerable to media decay, but also to the threats of digital obsolescence. If you store your important family records on digital media or platforms then you need to start thinking about how it will be made accessible in the future.”

Digital Information is mediated by technology.

While the media on which your infomation is stored may not fail, what is certain is that digital  technology is changing so fast, that even if it the holder is kept in perfect condition, you will not be able to access the information it holds.  Will you have the technology to use some of these in 20-30 years?

Phonograph Record: Approximate dates in use: late 19th cent – 1990s?

5.25″ Floppy Disc: Approximate dates in use: 1972 – mid 1980s

3.5″ Floppy Disc: Approximate dates in use: 1982 – early 2000s

Reel-To-Reel Audio Tape: Approximate dates in use: early 1940s – early 1980s

Compact Cassette: Approximate dates in use: 1975 – 1978

VHS Video Cassette Tape Approximate dates in use: 1976 – 2008

CD-ROM Approximate dates in use: 1984 – late 2010s

DVD-ROM Approximate dates in use: 1997- late 2010s

Memory Stick Approximate dates in use: 1998 – present

SD Card Approximate dates in use: 2000 – present

You can see this mini exhibition at Anglesey Archives, Llangefni, LL77 7JA

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