The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Textual Digital Records

Textual Digital Materials could be important personal, educational, or professional documents such as resumes, papers, spreadsheets, PowerPoint slides, or other text-based digital objects. They may also be digitized copies of hard copy original documents such as letters. If your documents are valuable, take steps to ensure that you can continue to find and access these documents over time.

Archiving tips

Select your important files:

  • Locate all your important documents.These may live on your harddrive and/or laptop, removable media such as CDs or flash drives, or on a website or blog. Collect all these documents into one place.
  • Identify which documents are important to save. You set the criteria for determining what is important to keep – IE: the final version of a paper or important drafts as well as the final.
  • Throw out (delete) documents or versions of documents that you do not anticipate needing in the future.

Organize your files:

  • Use descriptive file names and naming conventions when organizing your files. Think about how you will look for items (by year, by topic), use names that you will easily recognize, and place dates consistently at the beginning or end of file names to facilitate sorting (for example: 20120301_My_Important_File.pdf).
  • Create a directory or folder on your computer where you can keep these documents together. 
  • Write a brief description of the folder contents and organization and include it as a ‘readme.txt’ file.

Save files in formats that are optimal for long-term preservation:

  • Make two copies of your documents; make sure that at least one of your copies is in an open standard such as .txt or .pdf.
  • While Microsoft Office programs are widely used (.doc, .xls, .ppt), they are proprietary and you may not be able to access these documents from a computer that does not support Microsoft software.

Make copies and manage them in different places:

  • Keep multiple copies of your files in different locations and on different media forms to ensure the best chance of long-term preservation.
  • One copy may remain on your computer, but putting several other copies on separate media such as DVDs, CDs, portable hard drives, thumb drives or Internet storage will be the best protection against loss. 
  • Store copies in different locations that are as physically far apart as practical. If disaster strikes one location, your audio recordings in the other place should be safe.
  • To be as safe as possible create 2 copies of your files. Put one away as your master copy without modifying it at all and use the other one for editing, emailing, etc. When you need another copy to use, make a copy of the master file and work with the copy.

Long-term storage is a key element in preserving your files. It is important to realize that no storage medium is permanent in the digital environment. Any storage medium used will require some maintenance to keep its contents viable for the longest period possible.

Currently the most common media used for long-term storage are:

  • CD/DVD – common form of storage and cheap.  (Optical media will face longevity issues, so this should be a considered a   short-term solution)
  • USB drive – very common storage method and relatively inexpensive
  • External hard drive – Holds large volumes of material and is a bit more expensive.
  • Internet/Cloud storage – generally subscription-based for a respectable amount of space

Check files and refresh storage media on a regular basis:

  • Create new media copies every five years or when necessary to avoid data loss.

Migrate files to newer formats if needed:

  • Attempt to stay current with major shifts in standards, software, hardware, platforms, and formats to ensure that your files are in a common, readable form.