Preservation

Decades of History Could Be ‘Erased from Australia’s Memory’ as Tape Machines Disappear

The National Archives of Australia has a problem. You may also have the same problem, although hopefully in a smaller scale.

According to an article by James Elton in the Australian Broadcasting Corporation web site at https://ab.co/31XGcCK, Australia’s memory institutions are racing to digitise their magnetic tape collections before the year 2025, when archivists around the world expect it will become almost impossible to find working tape playback machines.

PHOTO: Old recording equipment at the Australian National Archives. (ABC News)

The tapes include audio recordings, video, and reels of digitised information. Approximately 130,000 hours of audio and video held on magnetic tape by Australia’s National Archives alone and undoubtedly there are many more hours of tapes presently stored at other government agencies, various libraries, and educational institutions as well. If not converted to modern digital storage methods, these tapes will become unusable simply because suitable playback equipment will no longer be available within a few years.

Here are the issues facing the National Archives of Australia:

Australian Joint Copying Project

The microfilm produced by the Australian Joint Copying Project has long been a first stop for those researching local or family history. The 10,400 microfilm reels however have been difficult to access even for those living near libraries holding the microfilm let alone those in rural areas. The content itself can often be dense and difficult to locate relevant information.

The National Library of Australia has begun a new project to address these problems. Thanks to the Australian Public Service Modernisation Fund the AJCP Online Project will digitise the 7.5 million records captured on the original AJCP microfilm, delivering them online free of charge to all.

Details may be found at: https://tinyurl.com/y3f3wq8z.

Newly Recovered Ground Zero Photos Show Why You Should Back Up your CD-Recordable Disks Now: Photo CDs Don’t Last Forever

An article by Sean Hollister in The Verge web site at http://bit.ly/2RlRD1V describes a problem that every genealogist would like to avoid. In fact, it is easily avoidable if you are already aware of the problem and if you have already taken steps to side-step this technical issue.

When comedian and activist Jon Stewart gave an impassioned speech before Congress to seek ongoing aid for 9/11 first responders, it inspired Internet Archive software curator and digital preservationist Jason Scott to share something timely with the world as well: a newly discovered cache of photos from one of the workers who toiled away at Ground Zero, and who’d saved thousands of those photos on writeable CD-ROM disks.

But Scott says he wasn’t actually able to preserve all of those photos, because of the way they were stored. Many of the images stored on writeable CD disks were unreadable! Indeed, CD-recordable disks made on personal computers do not last forever. In this case, they didn’t even last 8 years!

Tornado Outbreaks Reminder to Make Smartphones Disaster-Ready

The recent news services have described all the tornado disasters of recent weeks. Last year it was the huge fires in California and elsewhere. Let me ask you a question: What would happen if a tornado, fire, or other disaster destroys your home and all of your genealogy records that are kept inside that home?

Obviously, any disaster in the home will create havoc in your life. Your genealogy records probably won’t be the first thing you think of. However, once you deal with the higher-priority issues, such as food, water, and shelter, you will eventually realize the loss of possibly years of your hard work and genealogy research. Luckily, it is easy to avoid the loss of genealogy records, family photographs, insurance documents, and much, much more if you make preparations in advance of a disaster.

An article by Madeline Purdue in the USA Today web site offers some practical advice, such as:

Many Items in Rhode Island’s Archives are at Risk of Damage

“Many items in the Rhode Island archives, including the state’s copy of the Bill of Rights, are at risk of damage because they’re kept in a building that’s not meant for preserving rare, historic documents, according to an assessment released Tuesday.

“There isn’t enough space to store or exhibit them properly, and water, light, dust and atmospheric pollution pose a risk to many of the items, according to the report by the Northeast Document Conservation Center. The collection has been housed since 1990 in a rented office building in a flood zone in downtown Providence.”

You can read the details in an Associated Press article by Jennifer Mcdermott at http://bit.ly/2HKIc9j.

New Transcription Workflow: African American Civil War Soldiers

The following announcement was written by the African American Civil War Soldiers team:

African American Civil War Soldiers recently launched a new workflow to complete the transcription of the military records of all Black men who fought for the Union army, beginning with the famous 54th and 55th Massachusetts regiments. Read on to see how you can get involved!

Last year Zooniverse volunteers transcribed the records of a sample of 40,000 members of the United States Colored Troops (USCT), the African American soldiers who fought for their freedom in the American Civil War. Due to the enthusiasm and commitment of these volunteers we completed the sample ahead of schedule. Today we are launching a new site to transcribe the records of the rest of the USCT and make them all freely available to scholars, genealogists and members of the public. We have divided the remaining soldiers based on their state of enlistment, and will be launching each new batch of records state-by-state.

Preserving Pennsylvania’s Oldest Historical Documents

“History may not repeat itself, but the present often rhymes with the past.” And in order to understand the past, preserving old documents and records is key.

“Cumberland County archivists recently received a grant to preserve documents that are older than the United States. These records include pieces from signers of the Declaration of Independence, among other works of historical significance that give a glimpse of Pennsylvania’s past.”

You can read more and listen to a podcast in an article by Kate Sweigart in the WITF.ORG web site at: http://www.witf.org.

America is Losing its Memory

I will suggest that an article by T.J. Stiles should be required reading by all Americans. (T.J. Stiles is a member of the governing boards of the Society of American Historians and the Organization of American Historians. He received the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for History, the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Biography, and the 2009 National Book Award for Nonfiction.)

Stiles starts by writing:

“America is losing its memory. The National Archives and Records Administration is in a budget crisis. More than a resource for historians or museum of founding documents, NARA stands at the heart of American democracy. It keeps the accounts of our struggles and triumphs, allows the people to learn what their government has done and is doing and it maintains records that fill in family histories. Genealogy researchers depend on it, as do journalists filing Freedom of Information Act requests. If Congress doesn’t save it, we all will suffer.”

You can read the full article in the Bangor Daily News‘ web site at: http://bit.ly/2WzLGjL.

New Online Records for an Old Cemetery in Sunbury, Pennsylvania

It’s now easier to look for relatives who are buried at the Sunbury Cemetery. The cemetery’s records are being put online. There are burials dating back to the 1700s, including people who fought in the American Revolution. Two United States congressmen are also buried there.

The effort to transcribe the records into an online database is just beginning. Sunbury Mayor Kurt Karlovich is looking for people who are interested in cemeteries and history to help with the effort.

You can read more and also watch a video in an article by Nikki Krize in the WNEO News web site at https://wnep.com/2019/04/23/new-records-at-old-cemetery-in-sunbury/.

The cemetery records that have already been placed online may be found at: http://www.sunburypa.org/sunbury-city-cemetery.html.

Fire Destroys Decades of Archives at a Tennessee Social Justice Center

A fire at a Tennessee social justice center that trained the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. has destroyed a building and decades of archives. Nobody was injured. New Market Volunteer Fire Department Capt. Sammy Solomon says the building was burned to the ground by the time crews arrived.

News outlets report officials are investigating what started the fire Friday morning at the Highlander Education and Research Center.

You can read more and view photos of the fire and of the historic Highlander Education and Research Center at: http://bit.ly/2YDuOu2.

Spared From the Shredder (for Now): ‘Priceless’ Bank Records of Old New York

The New York Times has published an interesting article by Jim Dwyer concerning the preservation of valuable records from New York City. A a shredding truck was about to shred a rare, powerful trove of the history of working-class New York: the archives of the Bowery Savings Bank, which was founded in 1834 for the benefit of its depositors. These records could be valuable to genealogists, historians, property title search professionals, and probably many others. The papers were among the materials being cleaned out of the basement of a Capital One branch in Brooklyn that is closing next month.

Four-alarm Fire Blazes Through St. Louis Museum of Rare Documents

Here is another reason you want to make digital copies of every document that is of value to you or to anyone else and then save the digital copies off site where they are safe from disasters in your home or office.

St. Louis, Missouri, firefighters responded Tuesday to a massive fire at a museum of rare documents, the cause of which is not yet known.

Will your valuable documents, pictures, and more end up like this collection?

How To Preserve Old Family Letters

The MyHeritage Blog has an interesting article about preserving old letters:

“If you are fortunate enough to have a cache of old family letters, you are sitting on a gold mine. Letter writing has gone by the wayside since the invention of the telephone, e-mail, texting, Twitter, and Facebook, just to name a few ways of modern communication. Those old letters in your genealogy records collection should be preserved for future generations. Whether you have 100 letters or just one, they are important to your family history and add to your family story.

It is the First Day of the Month: Back Up Your Genealogy Files

BackUpYourGenealogyFilesIt is the first day of the month. It’s time to back up your genealogy files. Then test your backups!

Actually, you can make backups at any time. However, it is easier and safer if you have a specific schedule. The first day of the month is easy to remember, so I would suggest you back up your genealogy files at least on the first day of every month, if not more often.

Israeli Lunar Lander Contains a 30-million-page Archive of Human Civilization built to last Billions of Years

I have written many times about preserving documents for use by future genealogists. I have often written why digital documents can last much longer than the equivalent information on paper. Last week, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carried an Israeli-made spacecraft named Beresheet beyond the grasp of Earth’s gravity and sent it on its way to the surface of the moon. On board Beresheet is a specially designed digital disc encoded with a 30-million-page archive of human civilization. The disk is expected to last billions of years into the future.

Yes, that’s BILLIONS of years. I doubt if paper will last that long.

Preserving Documents Digitally Versus on Paper Alone

I frequently hear a genealogist say something like this: “Digital storage methods are dangerous and won’t last long. I am going to save everything on paper so it will last forever.”

I strongly disagree. That is one of the fallacies that seem to float around forever. Professional archivists and data center managers all know better than that.

I certainly do not object to saving information on paper as long as that is only one of the copies made and is in addition to digital copies However, I would never trust paper as the only means of storing information for many years.

Paper is one of the most delicate storage methods available.

Initiative Begins to Digitally Preserve Ontario’s Historical Vernon Directories

The following announcement was written by FamilySearch and by Library and Archives Canada:

Salt Lake City, Utah (19 February 2019), The Ontario Genealogical Society (OGS) and Library and Archives Canada (LAC) are working with FamilySearch International to digitize the historical Vernon directories for the province of Ontario. The initiative will begin immediately to preserve and make the directories freely searchable online for family historians, researchers, and Canadians.

Vernon directories were published yearly, by city, from the 1890s to 2014, except 2010, when the company’s ownership changed. They cover most of Ontario, including the province’s capital city of Toronto. The name “Vernon directories” is derived from the name of the publisher. The initiative will encompass an estimated 1,875 directories.

Genealogy Guys and Vivid-Pix Partner to Recognize Genealogy’s Unsung Heroes

The following announcement was written by the Genealogy Guys (George G. Morgan and Drew Smith) and by Vivid-Pix:

The Genealogy Guys, George G. Morgan and Drew Smith, co-hosts and producers of the oldest continually produced genealogy podcast, and Vivid-Pix, makers of RESTORE photo and document restoration software, today announce that they are partnering to acknowledge and to celebrate those members of the genealogy community who digitize or index photos and other documents of value to genealogical researchers. The Unsung Heroes Awards will be a quarterly awards program designed to recognize its recipients in four categories: individuals, genealogical/historical societies, libraries/archives, and young people.

Completed nomination forms (see below for link to the form) should be emailed to genealogyguys@gmail.com and winners will be selected each quarter. Winners will receive: a custom-made commemorative mug with their choice of image; an announcement on an episode of The Genealogy Guys Podcast; a profile of the winner published on The Genealogy Guys Blog and the Unsung Heroes Blog; and recognition at the Vivid-Pix website (www.vivid-pix.com).

Don’t Store Books or Documents in Sealed Plastic!

A newsletter reader sent me a link to an online article that made me shudder when I read it. The article claims:

“Do you have an old book or important document that has been passed down from generation to generation? These books and documents break down over time due to oxygen, moisture, and other hazards. By sealing it, you’re also giving it added protection in the event of a flood, fire (smoke), or accidental damage.”

I am no expert in preservation, but I believe the last thing you want to do to a valuable old book or photo or other document is to seal it in an airtight plastic bag, especially a bag that is not labeled “archival quality.” Sealing in a cheap plastic bag can cause more damage than it prevents!

How to Easily Convert Old Cassette Tapes to Modern MP3 Files

Do you have old cassette tapes but have no way to play them? Luckily for you, there are multiple ways to convert cassette tapes to modern MP3 or other format files that can be stored in your computer’s hard drive, an external hard drive, a flash drive, CD disks, stored in the cloud, or even sent to anyone via email.

There are at least two methods of copying cassette tapes to modern digital files. I will call the two methods the easy way and the much easier way.

The Easy Way