Yesterday I discussed the future of digital research and how most of us have important parts of our lives on a computer or on the internet. I alluded to the fact that it would be around forever. I don’t know this – I’m not very technical/internet savvy in terms of the future and what is up to date. Today, let’s think about the other side. Will our email accounts ever be deleted? What happens if our blogs are deleted? What happens if Webshots or Picasa or Snapfish goes out of business? (Is that even possible?)
A back story: In high school, ca. 2001, my family had Juno accounts. From what I remember, we did not access it on the web, but more as a Microsoft Outlook account on the desktop (after the email came through on the dial-up connection.) Then one year we got a new CPU and we didn’t have that same Juno program anymore. We still had Juno accounts, but now we had to access them on the internet. The problem was that all of my previous email had disappeared! Most of it was inconsequential, but years later I still wish that I had some of those emails because some were from Vinny back in high school and I wish I could have those along with everything else I have saved. If I had known that would happen, I probably would have saved the emails as separate documents (but of course they’d be on a 3.5” floppy disk right now and that wouldn’t help me either.)
Clearly, that’s a lost cause but for some reason it’s still in my head. What does that mean now? Have I saved every email as a document? No, although I’ve never used a Microsoft Outlook type of program again. Instead, I rely on Gmail to save all of my email. What will eventually happen to it? Should I be saving all of my email? Considering the vast quantity of email that I write, it would be ridiculous. However, a good portion of my emails reveal much about my life. Although I have always kept a diary, sometimes I feel like email substitutes itself and I wish I could have both. This isn’t something I wish for so that 100 years from now, I’m easily researched. It is so I can look back on my life when I’m very old and gray and reminisce and remember where I’ve been, what I’ve done, and those who mean the world to me. With everything in digital form, this could be a challenge.
I don’t have a digital preservation plan for my email. The only things that I do make sure are safe are all of my files on my hard drive, which are stored on an external hard drive. My photographs are safe for the near future, all stored on Picasa. But a few years down the line, I have no idea what that will mean.
Aside from our personal lives, we should probably consider our professional documents. How does your office insure that files and records are safe? I’m not implying that everything should be in hard copy. That can be extremely expensive in terms of natural resources and human resources. And a natural disaster can easily destroy hard copies of everything.
I’m interested to hear what you are doing in terms of present digital preservation (historic records are another issue) whether for personal or professional purposes (and for email!) Is there a solution out there of which I am not aware?