A recent CBS Sunday Morning episode by New York Times technology correspondent David Pogue discusses the notion of ‘data rot’–where electronic information (audio, video, data files) is lost because of the breakdown of the physical host it is recorded to; the lack of appropriate software and hardware to read the data; and by the overwhelming inability to ‘migrate’ data to new and current formats. The episode is interesting AND there are archivists in it!
He also has the piece in a different format and with interesting commentary on his “Circuits” column of this week at:
The Smith College Archives has over 275 reel-to-reel tapes, the earliest documenting the College’s 75th anniversary events in 1950, through a Rally Day speech delivered in 1992. There are another 694 cassette tapes documenting all types of programs at Smith: Last Chapel speeches, Alumnae College programs, conferences, musical concerts, oral history interviews, and more. We are entering a pilot project to digitize 26 of the earliest reel-to-reel tapes–to see what we can still hear from them. Our hope is that the data hasn’t rotted–although we are also practical-minded about it and realize the chances are high that some data has been lost. As we have the funding available, we’ll continue to work to ‘migrate’ the information through reformatting.
So, ‘migration’ isn’t just for the animal world–it’s for the electronic world too!