17 October 2012
Preserving the Past: Tips To Keep Memories Safe

Life happens fast. The kids grow so quickly. You move from one place to another. Family members move away. Memories can remind us of where we’ve been and the joys we’ve shared with family and friends. However, keeping these memories for the long term takes a little time, and an understanding of how to protect family and work photos, videos, recordings and other memories to enjoy or use over and over in the years to come.

Personal archiving protects memories in all kinds of formats, from family diaries handed down through the generations to pictures from last summer’s vacation with your extended family.

Here are some tips from the Library of Congress to start your own personal archives – memories in digital format.

Digital Photographs

The family scrapbook or photo album is filled with photographs of friends, family members, ancestors and important people and places in our lives. However, traditional photographs tend to fade or tear or simply disappear. That’s where personal archiving comes in.

  • Start by making a list of all the photos you want to preserve and where these irreplaceable snapshots are now stored. Be sure to include traditional and digital photos.
  • The Library of Congress recommends that you create at least two digital copies of cherished photos. Traditional photos should be scanned using an all-in-one printer.
  • Keep one digital copy of favorite photos on your computer and store another copy on a DVD, CD, portable hard drive, thumb drive or on an Internet storage site.
  • Store these photographic memories in two different locations in case disaster strikes. If your photos are stored on your computer and on a DVD that are both kept at home, a flood, fire or other catastrophe can destroy these snapshots forever.
  • Finally, keep up to date with technology. As technology changes, update the methods used to store photos. Few of us use floppy disks anymore. Many computers don’t even have a floppy disk drive, so if your family photo albums are on floppy disks, update the means of storage to a DVD or CD. And, as more advances in technology are developed, keep your memories stored on the latest, safest technology available.

Archiving Digital Audio

Many of us have recordings of music, lectures and conferences, your child’s first words, and other audio information that should be preserved.

  • Again, make a list of what audio files you choose to save and where these files are located. If you have multiple copies of audio files, choose the copy with the best quality sound.
  • Organize audio files into categories: work files, files from school, family audio, your favorite music selections and so on. Store audio from different locations on separate CDs or DVDs. Give each disc a special, descriptive name for easy access.
  • Transfer audio files stored on computer hard drives to a CD or DVD and, once again, store these memories in two different physical locations.
  • Save audio files using an open format. There are numerous audio formats like .wav files or .aif files. These formats may change over time, so saving audio files in an open format should give you access to these memories in the years ahead.

Preserving Your Videos

The video of a child’s first steps is irreplaceable – and one you’ll want to view and share with family and friends.

  • Chances are, you have videos stored on digital video cameras, older VHS video cameras, computers, smart phones, memory sticks and storage cards, and even on the Internet.
  • Locate and identify the videos you want to archive for future reference and future fun. Give each video its own file name for easy access to the exact clip you’re looking for.
  • Select the best copy of the video you have available. For example, videos posted on the Internet are “compressed” for faster downloads. In the process of compressing a video, the picture quality tends to become grainy and less vivid, so select the best version of a precious video for storage.
  • Update videos every five years, according to the Library of Congress to prevent “data loss” – the degrading of picture quality over time. As new media are developed, transfer your digital videos to the new media to keep your clips current and looking their best.

Storing Memories in the Cloud

Another recommendation to keep your photos, videos and other memories safe is to use an Internet-based storage service – a cloud-based service where you access the digital information you want to see or hear from the Internet.

There are free storage web sites like mozy.com® and box.com®. Free cloud storage is usually limited to a certain amount of information that can be stored, measured in gigabytes. For example, mozy.com offers up to two gigabytes of storage space, while box.com offers five “gigs” of storage.  Some of these sites require a download of a storage application, while others are browser-based so all you have to do is upload your latest digital information.

Create a digital scrapbook for your children and grandchildren, so they can access the family history many years later.


The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice.


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