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Subject: Digital storage material and time capsules

Digital storage material and time capsules

From: Will Jeffers <wjeffers>
Date: Wednesday, March 15, 2000
In his latest posting regarding digital storage material and time
capsules, Jerry Shiner <keepsafe [at] interlog__com>

>Are there any considered opinions about which storage format is most
>likely to be readable in twenty-five years. (Note that I am
>proposing a time limit for our Time Frame time capsules
><URL:>. I know things will change
>dramatically, become "magical" in fact, the farther in time we go. I
>also know it is probably premature to ask this, but I have a real
>project, now, and want to provide the best answer I can.) Take off
>your conservation hat for a minute and imagine you're in Vegas:
>What's your best bet? Thanks again, further opinions would be

While I don't necessarily share his belief that gambling and
conservation are polar opposites, I'll gladly sidestep the question
and offer an opinion.

Shiner wonders which digital format is likely to be readable in
twenty-five years.  Unfortunately, the answer to his question has
may have more to do with market share than technical merit, as
anyone who has ever owned a Betamax videotape deck will attest.
Formats are transient, sometimes unpredictably so.  The only
constant is change; obsolescence is expected. The time in which it
takes for a new technology to become obsolete is constantly
decreasing.  In short, Shiner is betting on a long shot.

Rather than gamble in an all-or-nothing style by picking one format
and sealing it within an arcane capsule, perhaps there is a safer
bet to be had. If the visual information he wishes to preserve is
stored in a manner that allows access for subsequent reformatting,
the fate of the information can be separated from the fate of its
storage medium when necessary.

If Shiner thinks outside the hermetically sealed box and offers a
service (an actively managed archive) rather than a product (time
capsule), the odds of being able to retrieve the information he
seeks to preserve will greatly improve.

Will Jeffers
Collections Care Specialist
Department of Scientific Research
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

                  Conservation DistList Instance 13:48
                  Distributed: Friday, March 24, 2000
                       Message Id: cdl-13-48-016
Received on Wednesday, 15 March, 2000

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