Preservation

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

It’s Almost 2019. Do You Know Where Your Photos Are?

Do you plan to keep your family photographs forever? If so, where will you store them?

As printed photos: a bad idea as photos printed with most of today’s technology solutions, including those printed at the local drug store, will fade within a very few years. The problem is best seen on color photographs where the reds will fade first, only to be followed by the other colors over time. Even black-and-white photos made by today’s techniques will fade. (Photographs printed years ago by chemical means in a photographer’s darkroom lasted much longer than today’s photographs printed at home on an inkjet printer or in a commercial film development lab using a more-or-less instant printing process.

On floppy disks: a bad idea as floppy disks have almost disappeared. Within a few years, floppy disk drives probably will only be found in museums where they may or may not still function.

The New York Times will Digitize its Photo Archive

This may turn out to be a gold mine for historians and genealogists alike. The New York Times is planning to digitize more than a century’s worth of photographs, and it is going to use Google Cloud to do so.

The plan is to digitize MILLIONS of images — some dating back to the late nineteenth century — to ensure they can be accessed by generations to come. The digitization process will also prove useful for journalists who will be able to delve into the archives far more easily in future.

Until now, historic news articles and photos have been stored on microfilm and in other physical forms. This is not only difficult to catalog and navigate, but also prone to deterioration over time and through use.

Brian Stevens, Chief Technical Officer of Google Cloud, stated:

My Progress on Digitizing all my Old Genealogy Books

A newsletter reader wrote today and asked an embarrassing question:

“Over a year ago you said you were trying to scan 50 pages a day to get rid of most paper copies of books. How is that going??? Would be interested in reading more, esp. what programs, etc. you are using. I’ve been inclined to do the same, but with me it’s a “now and then if I’m totally bored” process.”

I must admit that I am a bit embarrassed that my progress has slowed down. There are multiple reasons: (1.) I spend my summers up north and my winters in the sunbelt which means the books to be digitized always seem to be in “the other place,” (2.) I travel a lot which is a good excuse for procrastinating on all sorts of plans, and (3.) I suffer from a severe case of general procrastination. I was going to join the Procrastinators’ Club of America but haven’t gotten around to it. (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Procrastinators%27_Club_of_America and http://articles.latimes.com/1987-06-21/news/mn-9001_1_story-tomorrow for details concerning that organization.)

Luckily, I have found many of my genealogy books are already available in digital formats on Archive.org, Google Books, and numerous other web sites. If one of my books has already been digitized, I simply save the digitized version to my local hard drive and to the backup services, then throw away the paper copy. That has saved me a lot of work.

However, I have found an excellent method of digitizing my remaining books: give the work to someone else and let that company do the work for a rather modest price.

No More Room at National Archives of Iceland

What do you do when the National Archives runs out of room to store documents? That’s the question being asked now in Iceland.

National Archives of Iceland

The National Archives of Iceland (ÞSK) have temporarily stopped receiving government documents due to a lack of shelf space, RÚV reports. Representatives say the government has known about the situation since at least January, but has yet to solve the problem.

Bible Rescue Saves Family Bibles and the Genealogies Inside

This is the story of how the nonprofit, Bible Rescue, saves lost Bibles. They look for Bibles containing genealogy information to be reunited with families. A rare Bible owned by a slave family is among the collection, but the goal is not to keep them but rather, to return these priceless heirlooms.

A Plan to Store Everything Ever Published in a 1,000-year Archive

Want to preserve your family history for 1,000 years? That is about to become a possibility. All you need to do is to publish the information in Norway.

The National Library of Norway’s (NLN) secure storage facility plans to digitize everything ever published in Norway: books, newspapers, manuscripts, posters, photos, movies, broadcasts, and maps, as well as all websites on the Norwegian .no domain.

Their work has been going on for the past 12 years and will take 30 years to complete by current estimations.

At the moment, the library has already saved more than 540,000 books and over 2,000,000 newspapers in its archive. These have been mass-scanned and OCR-processed before being stored, so all the content in the library is free-text searchable.

Holocaust Historian Slams Germany for Shredding Millions of Death Records

According to the Hamburg Morgen Post newspaper, the state cultural ministry is defending the decision by the archive’s director, Udo Schäfer, to destroy an estimated 1 million death certificates dating from 1876 to 1953. The Hamburg State Archive destroyed an estimated 1 million death certificates dating from 1876 to 1953. The state cultural ministry later admitted the move was a mistake.

Details may be found at http://eogn.com/20180928-1.

Has Hurricane Florence Destroyed Records of America’s Slave Trade?

This might be a lesson for all archivists, historians, and genealogists who have historic records, artifacts, or family treasures in their possession: North Carolina’s archivists are worried that fragile collections of documents, covering centuries of history, could have been destroyed by Hurricane Florence.

The fear is that historical archives housed in universities, courthouses, and local libraries are at heightened risk from flooding and mold.

Church of Ireland Library has been awarded a €100,000 Government Grant to Digitise Their Records

A new grant of €100,000 ($117,564 US) will allow the Representative Church Body (RCB) Library to digitise a huge number of records that span several centuries, in a move that will be welcomed by families in Ireland and abroad who are interested in genealogy. Most of the institution’s records are currently only available on paper or microfilm by visiting the Braemor Park library in Churchtown, Co Dublin.

The new Government grant – which came from the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht – will see volumes as old as 400 years being digitised so the masses can access them from anywhere in the world.

You can learn more about the grant in an article by Patrick Kelleher in The Irish Times at: http://bit.ly/2R05lXR.

Funding Sought to Rebuild Brazil’s National Museum Collection following a Destructive Fire

This is an update to yesterday’s article, Incalculable Loss as Rio de Janeiro’s 200-year-old National Museum is Gutted by a Huge Fire, at http://bit.ly/2oL3cCF:

Museum officials say almost 90% of the collection has been destroyed. The museum housed one of the largest anthropology and natural history collections in the Americas. It included the 12,000-year-old remains of a woman known as “Luzia,” the oldest human remains ever discovered in Latin America.

The Richmond Headlight is now Digitized and Available Online at DigitalNC

From the Digital North Carolina Blog:

“43 issues of the Richmond Headlight have been newly added to DigitalNC and are available now. These are the first issues of the Richmond Headlight to be digitized and uploaded to DigitalNC, covering from March 1901 to September 1906. It is also the first newspaper on DigitalNC from Richmond County. Published as a weekly newspaper in Rockingham, the Richmond Headlight advertised itself as the “only Democratic paper in the county” at the time. As the newspaper folded in late 1906, this batch may represent the entirety of the Richmond Headlight‘s circulation still in known existence, completing the collection.”

You can read more in the Digital North Carolina Blog at http://bit.ly/2PAfKrK.

Incalculable Loss as Rio de Janeiro’s 200-year-old National Museum is Gutted by a Huge Fire

This has nothing to do with genealogy. However, it does serve as a reminder that any collection, even a genealogy archive, is fragile and could disappear at any time.

Brazil’s Museu Nacional housed artifacts from Egypt, Greco-Roman art, and some of the first fossils found in Brazil. Yesterday, the museum was almost totally destroyed by fire and much of its archive of 20 million items is believed to have been destroyed.

The South Carolina State Library is Working on a Project to Digitize Federal Civil War Documents

The South Carolina State Library is working with the Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum in Columbia, SC, to scan and digitize hundreds of documents from the Colin J. McRae Papers, Huse Audit Series. Huse was a Confederate purchasing agent for the breakaway states’ Ordinance Department in Britain.”

“It’s a collection of original invoices and correspondences that list goods and services purchased from England by the Confederate military,” Digital Curation and Preservation Librarian Jessica Dame said. “The goods and services include things like weapons, cloth for uniforms, food, medication, freight.”

Racing against Time in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, to save 300 Years of Land Records

The handwriting of William Penn, the founding father of Pennsylvania, has weathered the ravages of time for 334 years, most recently buried amid reams of paper inside the Bucks County storage facility in Doylestown Township. His handwriting and that of many others in the deeds of early Pennsylvania are deteriorating on frayed, yellowed, mold-stained pages, their ink faded and vanishing. Some tomes produced after the Civil War were printed on paper whose wood pulp was supplemented by cloth recycled from Union uniforms. Some of the records may soon be unreadable.

Kofile Technologies, a company that specializes in preserving historical documents, has entered into a contract with the county to treat and rebind 700 of the volumes, records from 1684 to the late 1800s that also include emancipation documents for slaves and other miscellaneous recordings.

You can Nominate a North Carolina Newspaper to be Digitized

The following is an introduction to an article written by the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center:

It’s time to announce our annual round of microfilmed newspaper digitization! As in previous years, we’re asking cultural heritage institutions in the state to nominate papers from their communities to be digitized. We’re especially interested in:

  • newspapers published 1923 or later,
  • newspapers that are not currently available in digital form elsewhere online, and/or
  • newspapers covering underrepresented regions or communities.

If you’re interested in nominating a paper and you work at a cultural heritage institution that qualifies as a partner, here’s what to do:

Full instructions are given at http://bit.ly/2PGwD4R.