The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Preserving Your Digital Materials

Your scholarly articles, presentations, research data, manuscripts, emails, papers, photographs, audio files, and videos are vital to future researchers.  In the past much of this material was created in print or analog formats, donated to an archives or library at some later date (for ex. upon a retirement), and then preserved for the long-term by the archive or library. 

Now that much of these materials are being created in digital formats, we no longer have the luxury of waiting that long to take steps to preserve important materials.  The average lifespan of most digital materials is only about ten years.  For some types of material, such as websites, it can be even less.  Wait much longer -- and the material may become obsolete.  This means that a computer may no longer be able to read or display the information, and the information may be lost forever.

Watch "Why Digital Preservation is Important for Everyone"
This short video from the Library of Congress explores how digital content – unlike content on traditional media – depends on technology to make it available.

Chances are that you want to keep some valuable digital photographs, papers, e-mail, and other files so that you and other researchers can look at them in the future.

Digital preservation tips at a glance:

  1. Select your important files
  2. Organize your files
  3. Save files in formats that are optimal for long-term preservation
  4. Make copies of your files and manage them in different places
  5. Check files and refresh storage media on a regular basis
  6. Migrate your files to newer formats if needed

For more specific information about digital preservation of different types of materials:

Learn more:

UMass Amherst Libraries Guidelines for Digitization (PDF)

How Long Will Digital Storage Media Last? (PDF)

"Why Digital Preservation is Important for You." (Video)

CBS Sunday Morning: David Pogue on Data Rot (Video)

Team Digital Preservation Videos (Short funny animated films about digital preservation created by DigitalPreservationEurope(DPE))

For more information contact the UMass Amherst Libraries' Digital Creation and Preservation Working Group at: 

This website is based on the Library of Congress “Personal Archiving” website: