top of page

Preserving Our Digital Heritage: Why It Matters and How You Can Help

In today's digital age, the importance of preserving our digital heritage cannot be overstated. From personal photos and documents to critical historical records, our digital assets are invaluable. But what exactly is digital preservation, and why should you care? Let's dive in.

a old photo album of portraits
Keeping our memories preserved

What is Digital Preservation?

Digital preservation refers to the series of managed activities necessary to ensure continued access to digital materials for as long as necessary. This involves not just storing data but also maintaining its usability, authenticity, and integrity over time. As technology evolves, so do the challenges of keeping digital information accessible and intact.

Why is Digital Preservation Important?

  1. Cultural Heritage: Digital preservation helps safeguard our cultural heritage. Historical documents, photographs, and multimedia content are all part of our collective memory. Without proper preservation, these digital artifacts could be lost forever.

  2. Research and Education: Academics and researchers rely heavily on digital archives for their work. Preserving digital content ensures that future generations can access and learn from past research and data.

  3. Personal Memories: On a personal level, digital preservation means that your cherished photos, videos, and documents are safe for future generations. Imagine losing all your digital memories due to a hard drive failure or obsolete technology.

Challenges in Digital Preservation

Digital preservation faces several challenges, including:

  1. Technological Obsolescence: Unlike traditional analog objects such as books or photographs, digital objects require a software environment to render them. These environments evolve rapidly, threatening the continuity of access to the content. Physical storage media, data formats, hardware, and software all become obsolete over timem, posing significant threats to the survival of the content. This process is referred to as digital obsolescence.

  2. Scaling Issues: The enormous and growing quantity of digital content presents significant scaling issues to digital preservation efforts. Rapidly changing technologies can hinder digital preservationists' work and techniques due to outdated and antiquated machines or technology.

  3. Complex and Dynamic Nature: Digital content can present challenges to preservation because of its complex and dynamic nature, such as interactive web pages, virtual reality and gaming environments, learning objects, and social media sites. Maintaining the authenticity, fixity, and integrity of these objects over time is difficult.

  4. Economic Challenges: Preservation programs require significant upfront investment to create, along with ongoing costs for data ingest, data management, data storage, and staffing. The benefits of these programs largely accrue to future generations, making it challenging to secure current and ongoing funding.

How Can You Contribute to Digital Preservation?

  1. Regular Backups: Make it a habit to back up your digital files regularly. Use multiple storage solutions, such as external hard drives and cloud services, to ensure redundancy.

  2. Use Open Formats: Whenever possible, save your files in open, widely-used formats. This increases the likelihood that they will be accessible in the future, even as technology changes.

  3. Stay Informed: Keep up with best practices in digital preservation. Organizations like the Digital Preservation Coalition offer valuable resources and guidelines to help you stay on top of the latest developments.

  4. Collaborate and Share: Join communities and forums dedicated to digital preservation. Sharing knowledge and resources can help everyone improve their preservation efforts.

Best Practices for Digital Heritage Preservation

  1. Follow the 3-2-1 Rule: There should ideally be three copies of the data, stored on two different media, with at least one stored off-site or in the cloud.

  2. Metadata Management: Preservation metadata is crucial for digital preservation. It includes technical information for digital objects, information about a digital object's components and its computing environment, as well as information that documents the preservation process and underlying rights basis.

  3. File Format Selection: Choose file formats that are open, standard, non-proprietary, and well-established to enable long-term archival use. Factors to consider include disclosure, adoption, transparency, self-documentation, external dependencies, impact of patents, and technical protection mechanisms.

  4. Regular Integrity Checks: Frequently check the integrity of digital content to ensure it has not decayed or become damaged. This can be done through file fixity checking, which involves validating that a file has not changed or been altered from a previous state.

  5. Embrace New Technologies: Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing, and Robotic Process Automation can play a role in digital preservation through various applications and technologies. These emerging technologies can help manage and preserve digital content more effectively.


Digital preservation is a collective responsibility that requires awareness and action from all of us. By taking steps to preserve our digital assets, we ensure that our cultural heritage, research, and personal memories remain accessible for future generations. Let's work together to safeguard our digital future. For more tips and resources on digital preservation, visit our website and join the conversation!

8 views0 comments


bottom of page