How do you archive yourself?
October 16, 2020 10:22 PM   Subscribe

Family documents, diaries and journals, the book I wrote but never published... my personal archive is growing as I age, and I'm wondering about storage and retrieval for future years (and future generations.)

Currently my archive is all in the cloud, a $99/year popular cloud service. Most of my documents are digital-born anyway, and I scan important papers. The paid cloud seems unwise—if I am unable to pay one year, the info is presumably lost...? Yikes. I want to leave something behind that isn't digitally encrypted or even printed on paper (water damage, fire, etc).

What's your future-proof system?
posted by Jason and Laszlo to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I really only do this for my photos but every year I buy a new portable hard drive and back up everything from my cloud storage/NAS (they're synced) to it. It's approaching 1TB now but so far drive space is outpacing my storage needs so the hard drives always cost around $100 or less.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 7:23 AM on October 17, 2020

You might find this book useful: Take Control of Your Digital Legacy.
posted by caek at 7:42 AM on October 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: In the digital archives field we use the acronym LOCKSS ("Lots Of Copies Keep Stuff Safe"). Your personal stuff might not need the three full backups that we keep at work, but keeping the cloud service and also downloading everything into a portable hard drive backup once or twice a year gives you a nice cushion against threats to either form of storage: not being able to pay for the cloud one year OR a flood taking out your hard drive. Although I would read your cloud service's policies on what happens to your files if you can't pay.

Something else I wish was more common knowledge in the world is that digital records need continued maintenance. This is a pretty good list of file types that tend to do well in digital archives at the moment - like you mention, you don't want encrypted materials, so ensuring that you're using archival file types is helpful. But of course, technology will keep evolving and that list will change. Come back to your files on a regular schedule to make sure you have programs that can open them. Combine that with a good file naming system and a personal records retention schedule (like, "I don't need to keep business paperwork after seven years, I don't need to keep the dog's rabies paperwork more than one year, I keep drafts of a novel but I rename them "NOVELNAME.DRAFT.LASTDATEWORKEDON" on the first of every year and start a fresh file.") and you'll be ahead of every public figure whose materials an archivist has ever muddled through.

Also, you mention family documents, diaries and journals. Are these the things you are scanning and getting rid of? Uh...don't do that. Digital scans are a great backup and make it possible to interact with the materials while keeping the originals safe. But the existence of the physical original material is a GREAT third copy in the LOCKSS way of thinking, because while weather/fire/floods might be a threat to physical paper, it's still a medium that taken care of properly can last an extremely long time with little cost to you, and one that you'll be grateful for when, say, the electricity goes out or the hard drive gets dropped. Weed, yes. Don't keep physical copies of every draft or letter. But the things that are close to your heart, particularly handwritten materials and physical photos, can be well-labeled (with pencil, is the general rule), stuck in acid free folders in an acid free box and found a space in a cool, dry closet. Future generations will thank you.
posted by theweasel at 8:07 AM on October 17, 2020 [12 favorites]

What's your future-proof system?

I'm still working on it from overthinking and really really wanting it to also be very cool like a little computer housed in a skull like the terminal in Neuromancer. It gives me chuckles to think about just leaving this skull that you plug in power and I/O things and it's like a kiosk.

But it has to be based on really simple FOSS sort of stuff so that even if it's forgotten for years it could still be a sort of obvious recovery. The end-game is that it's like a sphere of acrylic or something that would last a thousand years and like a SETI message or a Babylonian cuniform tablet would make some future archeologist with a magnificent white beard twitter with glee.

Piggybacking, but if anybody knows of a simple FOSS sort of wiki thing that is also capable of storing multiple versions of a particular story including the ability to hide/reveal true names or level of detail and build timelines that doesn't heavily rely on complex things on the backend....

Anyways... one of your strategies should be to maybe run it on a RPi or a NUC and shove it into a plastic halloween skull that's a full blown computer when you hook it up.

Why leave just a hard drive or files in the cloud when you could leave a freaky skull computer?
posted by zengargoyle at 12:51 PM on October 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Since you’re looking at a multi generation scale, you need to get other people to care about your stuff enough to keep it. Often this is relatives (even distant ones if they happen to be into genealogy), some archives are also increasingly seeing the value of everyday journals and family photos to preserve history. Self-publish your book and see if local or specialty libraries or other organizations want copies. My alma mater will sell alumni books in the campus store. Print photo postcards and send them for holidays, assuming some folks will save them through sentiment or inertia.
posted by momus_window at 7:53 PM on October 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

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