As more and more information becomes digital, archivists wrestle with the issues of how to archive these materials. Complicating factors include a dizzying variety of platforms and types of software, planned obsolescence, usage licenses and copyright, and the sheer quantity of born-digital information.
But archivists are not the only ones wrestling with these issues. Ordinary people are faced with the same problems as they try to figure out how to save their e-mails, documents, photos, and other digital materials. Where once you could stick some handwritten letters in a shoebox and some family snapshots in a photo album and expect that they would last for a little while, you can’t do that any longer. Of course, if you really want those letters and snapshots to last for more than a little while, you shouldn’t put them in shoeboxes and random photo albums to begin with; ordinary people need help with preserving non-digital items as well.
There have been several recent events focusing on personal archiving, and I expect that this is a topic that will be getting more attention. It might even make a good career niche for enterprising archives professionals: how about a freelance archivist (or group of archivists) that you can hire to help you make sense of your belongings and advise you on how to handle them in the future so that your personal archiving process is as efficient and reliable as possible? Perhaps you can put them on retainer so that every six months or so, they can archive whatever has accumulated since their last visit. It sounds like a worthwhile service to me (as a potential customer), as well as something that could be a fun and interesting job (as a recently-graduated MLIS with an interest in archives).
The Personal Digital Archiving 2011 Conference was held in February 2011 at the Internet Archive. INFOdocket has posted a link to videos of the presentations at the conference; that post also links to other PDA2011 content on INFOdocket. Also, The Conference Circuit blog has summaries of the talks at the conference (since it’s a blog, they’re in reverse order); this links to the ‘Personal Archiving, 2011’ category on the blog.
Going back a bit further in time, the Library of Congress held a Personal Archiving Day on May 10, 2010. Videos from that event are now available on the web as well. Once again, INFOdocket provides an overview post with links.