May
16

Digital Preservation – Things to Consider

teenwriters.jpgWe have been talking about best practices for preservation, but often we tend to ignore our digital collections of “stuff” until it’s too late and the computer dies or gets damaged. In current times, we enjoy the ease of information that we can have at our fingers – word documents on our phones that we can adjust on our computers, endless pictures and videos in the palms of our hand, and even downloadable music, movies and more. But the loss or damage of a device, or even changes in software can cause the loss of a digital item forever.

Some concepts to consider for digital items –

  • Back up your digital collection regularly (i.e. at least quarterly, more when you have something to lose), whether it be your phone to your computer/cloud and your computer files to the cloud/backup hard drive/off-site location (i.e. Google Drive, Dropbox, or even Crashplan for Home. You could even back up to a hard drive or high-capacity flash drive and save it in a fireproof safe or a safe deposit box.
  • Pay attention to those items that are created in a software-specific format and consider formatting them into multiple versions to ensure that you can always access it. For example, Windows 95 software is no longer compliant with up to current versions of Windows, so you can’t share that original paper in college with the newer generations any longer.
  • Newer technology doesn’t always mean that the format is more stable. You may want to consider creating multiple versions of technology, especially audio and visual, as they might not last long enough to share with future generations. Various sites of given the following estimates regarding life expectancy of audio/visual materials:
Type Estimated Life Expectancy with proper storage/humidity
Music – Vinyl 100 – 1,000 years
Music – Cassette 10 – 30 years
Music – CDs Probable up to 20 years; ideal conditions up to 100 years
Music – CDRs 5 – 10 years
Music – Mp3 files Unknown
Video – 8mm or 16 mm 40 – 60 years
Video – VHS/Beta 10 – 30 years
Video – Hi8, Digital8, mini-DVD 10 – 20 years
Video – DVD Probable up to 20 years; ideal conditions up to 100 years
Video – M-DISC Up to 1,000 years (theoretically)
Video – Blu-Ray unknown

Lastly, make sure that you digital items are in the best possible format for long-term access. The following file format suggestions are provided courtesy of the Smithsonian Institute Archives.

Type Primary Preservation Format (preferred) Secondary Preservation Format (acceptable)
Text/word processing applications PDF/A
PDF
RTF (text)
TXT
XML with schema
Spreadsheet applications or structured data PDF/A (must capture entire workbook – macros disabled)
PDF
CSV
Tab-delimited
TXT
XML
Presentations PDF/A
PDF
Original
Images TIFF (uncompressed) JPG
DNG
PNG
JP2
Graphics TIFF PDF
Video Motion JPEG 2000
MOV, AVI
MPEG-4
Audio BWF-Broadcast WAV
(.wav is the extension)
WAV
AIFF
FLAC
Websites and social media records WARC ARC
Files from Content Management System
Email messages/account XML email preservation format
Database Management Systems (DBMS) Keep original XML with schema

 

When it doubt, contact a professional who will analyze what you have and assist you in making the best decision to ensure that your files and precious memories, music, videos, Instagram-filtered pics and more are able to be shared with future generations of your family and the Lowell community.

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May
15

Kerouac Park Needs Your Help

kpark_rendering

Today, the City launched a crowdfunding campaign to renew Kerouac Park.

Can we count on your support?

Kerouac Park is in the heart of Downtown by Bridge Street and the Eastern Canal. Thirty years ago the City dedicated the Jack Kerouac Commemorative. Today, the park is a little rough around the edges.

Fortunately, MassDevelopment has a new grant program to renew places like Kerouac Park. It’s simple. When we raise $25,000 from donations big and small, MassDevelopment will double our fundraising. We would have $50,000 to invest into this important park.

Can you pitch in $25 today?

We’ll invest in fresh landscaping, new seating, outdoor play equipment, a stage, and more. We’ll also build a place for entrepreneurs to try their ideas in the hopes that successful concepts will lead to permanent Downtown storefronts. Kerouac Park will become the perfect place for everything from lounging to hosting bigger events.

Learn more about the campaign and give today. Together we can make Kerouac Park a place to relax, play, mingle, laugh, gather, and celebrate Lowell. Please share this campaign with your friends and family and like our page on Facebook.

Email KPark@LowellMA.gov with any questions. Click here to sign-up for occasional emails about Kerouac Park.

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May
09

Special Needs Storytime

Calling all Special Needs families!  Come join us for a morning of stories, music, and more this Saturday, May 12 at 10 AM.  Special Needs children of all abilities are invited.  Stay the entire session or as long as your child wants.   Sitting quietly is not a requirement!  Siblings are always welcome.  Questions?  Contact Molly Hancock, Coordinator of Youth Services at 978-674-1527 or at mhancock@lowelllibrary.org.

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May
09

Your Personal Preservation Project

stacked paperThroughout our lives, we accumulate a serious amount of “stuff” whether it’s paper or photographs, items or clothing, and our digital collection might even be bigger. Often, we want to pass along items to our family members or perhaps donate our memories to an institution that would want to use them for research or reference. It’s noble to think about passing along these treasures of ours, but there’s a time commitment to identifying the value of the items and finding someone to go through them.

Last year, a book called “The gentle art of Swedish death cleaning: how to free yourself and your family from a lifetime of clutter” by Margareta Magnusson arrived in libraries and bookstores. It’s easy to admit that the title seems a bit morbid, but the concept as outlined by NBC News (https://www.nbcnews.com/better/health/what-swedish-death-cleaning-should-you-be-doing-it-ncna816511 ) shows that going through your items regularly may contribute to better overall health and outlook. For those of you not interested in this concept, you can still tackle your items in a straightforward and positive way.

First, think about everything you might want to pass along as your collection. This is everything that you consider valuable and that might have a place elsewhere down the road. Looking at everything, break them into categories of your choosing. There are no right or wrong answers but some examples could be photos, letters, books, items, furniture, jewelry.

Next is to setup a work space and a dedicated storage space for keeping your collection as you organize it. As you go, you can choose to merely break items into piles and then house in boxes or create a grouping of piles for keeping by item (i.e. breaking up pictures by who is in the photos – a pile for Boy, a pile for Girl, a pile to copy for both). As you move along through paperwork and other items, consider if they are truly valuable and in need of keeping. Let yourself enjoy the art of letting go – for example, if you never look at yearbooks, consider donating them to local history agencies or perhaps even your schools that may no longer have a copy of them or create a special memory box for your relatives to see those things that you most valued, but are okay with them giving away after you can no longer use them. Providing a life story can be incredibly insightful and for those who love family history enlightening about those things you valued, treasured memories, important recipes, and more. Organizing items to make it easy for your family to see what was valuable to you can be incredibly important and adding information about where and what you’d like to do with certain collections can be helpful after you are gone. Knowing things like who is getting what items can assist with streamlining your collection when you cannot give instructions.

For use of your collection now, consider scanning your items so that they can be preserved and kept safely. Scan newspaper items and photographs that are in poor shape (damaged, ripped, or lightened). If you have funny letters, postcards, drawings, etc. from your past, scanning allows you to share them on social media, email to an old friend, or even forward along to relatives to talk about the story of the item. Scanning every item in your collection might be overwhelming, but doing it a bit at a time might help you to get through it.

Best practices for your items:

In order to guarantee your items stay in good shape, consider the following recommendations:

  • NEVER store valuable items in the basement or the attic. Store documents and audiovisual items in a cool/dry place with stable temperature and humidity. Ideal is 68 F with a humidity of 40%. The more stable the items can be the better preserved they will be
  • Attempt to store items away from outer wall vents and pipes and at least 6 inches off the ground.
  • Store items out of direct sunlight and limit light exposure as much as possible.
  • Store like items together (letters with other letters, photographs with other photographs). If items break down the chemicals will negatively affect other items, causing discoloration and/or disintegration.
  • Consider getting rid of newsprint, if possible. It is highly acidic and can be unstable. If possible, photocopy clippings on acid free paper to minimize damage to the rest of your collection. Otherwise, store the items away from other documents and photographs.
  • If items have major damage (mold, spores, etc.), consider sending it to a document conservator and/or remove away from collection, storing in mylar or other protective materials to minimize damage to other items.

Proper Storage

  • Handle items with care, storing them in sturdy boxes to guarantee protection for your items, but also limits its chances of collapsing.
  • Don’t use cardboard as it contains chemicals that could damage your items. Consider using acid-free boxes and folders to protect your items.
  • Store items in boxes as close to their original size, so that items can lay flat, neatly and are supported. Boxes that are too big can cause damage like curling or creasing or breakage; too small can lead to sticking and cramping/crushing. If necessary, protect items with acid-free materials to protect them and then properly store in a larger enclosure.

For more specific details on preservation of items, visit the Library of Congress’ page on collections care – http://www.loc.gov/preservation/care/ or the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works’ Caring for Your Treasure page – http://www.conservation-us.org/about-conservation/caring-for-your-treasures#.WvHnf4gvy72.

Next week, we’ll cover best practices for saving family heirlooms and digital materials.

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May
07

STEAM Afternoons

The first session of our STEAM Afternoons begins this Thursday, May 10th at 1:30 P.M.  Our first theme will be COLORS and we will be having a storytime and STEAM stations to explore.  Sign up is required.  To register, call the children’s desk at 978-674-1529 or register online.

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