Our Digital Lives

Our Digital Lives

Located in the bowels of town hall, a stack of administrative ledgers towered five feet tall, and ten yards wide. It documented the transactions of the local government, so town officials knew that they had to keep these files safe and protected—the problem is that they didn’t know how.  

I watched this precariously balanced tower of old papers, and my first thought was that it looked like the mounded kindling for a bonfire.

I was charged with assisting the town in managing this looming tower of parchment. Since I work as an archivist, this was not an uncommon request. Climbing through attic rafters, peeking in old barns, and poking through filing cabinets is all part of a day’s work.

I’ve learned that people often keep information in unique places.

I had a client once who stored materials under her kitchen sink, and I knew another woman who stored her items neatly in her garage. Unfortunately, sinks leak and mice love the taste of old paper.

I know a few people who kept their documents in safety deposit boxes, thinking that would ensure their survival. But years later, they were heartbroken to find that the climate inside the vault caused their paper to slowly decompose—and there was nothing they could do to stop it.

Our digital information is under similar threat. I know that decades down the road I won’t be able to scroll through my desktop files and social media musings unless I consciously manage and protect this information.

Some of my personal files are important to me and my sense of self. To me they are as valuable as the town records that tell of our history as a community.

I think about how I recently updated my social media status with pictures of my child carrying her heavy backpack on the first day of school.  I‘ve been taking photos of my daughter sewing her Halloween costume with my smartphone, too. This week alone, I’ve created Word documents, updated web sites, budgeted in spreadsheets, and sent numerous emails. All of this can be lost in a hard drive crash, a web site take-down, or in a sea of vast amounts of data.

Our digital information doesn’t reside in a mound of journals. It’s spread everywhere and can become as difficult to access as the information buried deep in a 5 by 30 pile of ledgers. Information overload can be as tragic to the digital recording of my daughter’s proud smile as a mouse to my printed copies. So, I work hard to manage my digital files as a collection that safely retains my work for the future and doesn’t leave it vulnerable to a slow burning bonfire or a quick disaster.

Melissa Mannon is a high school library and information specialist, an archivist, and published writer. She has a BA in Art History from the University of New Hampshire, and an MSLS in Archives Management and Library Science from Simmons College. For more info visit http://www.archivesinfo.com/

The Acronis True Image 2017 team asked Melissa to write a series of blog articles and share her experience in preservation and archive management, which exemplifies our belief in the importance of personal data backup. Protecting your digital information with backups is vital in preserving cherished memories, and Melissa’s work is a testament to that fact.