Saving electronic records from rot and decay

(10 October 2016) The Getty’s Institutional Archives preserves the history of the entire Getty. This includes archiving the significant electronic records staff have produced over the years.

These born-digital files—meaning files that originated in digital form, as opposed to being digitally scanned from papers and photos—document the vast array of work that the Getty conducts in areas such as exhibitions, publications, public programming, art history research, and art and cultural heritage conservation. Both Getty staff and visiting researchers are welcome to consult these records.

Digital archivists deal with two major challenges: obsolescence and bit rot. Bits of a file can change over time due to physical deterioration of storage media, which can make files corrupt and even inaccessible. This is common with CDs, but it can also happen with files sitting on hard drives or network drives.

Even with pristine files, there’s still the issue of obsolescence. Remember LaserDiscs? Technology is constantly evolving, making it difficult to ensure that disks and drives—and more importantly, the files they hold—can still be accessed in the future. Because of these vulnerabilities, when it comes to digital preservation, there’s no such thing as permanent storage. Files need to be periodically moved from one storage media to the next.

Read how The Getty manages its digital property here.