You have worked incredibly hard (or paid good money!) to research and learn about your family’s history and heritage. It would be a shame for it any of it to get lost because of an unforeseen disaster. Here’s how you can protect yourself and preserve the research completed from fires, floods, thefts, losses, electrical surges, and more.
What method(s) are you using to save your work? Try asking a teenager what a floppy disk is. They probably don’t know what you’re saying unless they’ve rummaged through their grandparent’s attic. It is important to stay current with the times and update how you are saving and backing up your work. While floppy disks are certainly out, you could likely get away with storing your work on a CD. Thumb drives and external hard drives are safe methods — for the time being.
Surely, you’ve thought about backing up your research prior to reading this. But where is it stored? Is it stored in your house along with your original work? That backup copy might not be enough to preserve your research and findings. If disaster strikes or a thief takes your computer and files, you’ve lost everything. You need to back up your backup by storing your backup in a different place. Keep your external hard drive at a friend or family member’s home, at work, in a storage unit, or in the cloud. The more places you store a backup the safer your research is and the better chance you’ll have access to one or more of them. Be safe and backup your backup.
Hard copies are great until they are consumed by floods, fires, mold, animals, or children. Paper is not permanent! Consider adding an electronic backup (or two or three) to your protection plan. If you insist on using paper, just keep lots of copies in many different places.
On this same subject, original copies of journals, photos, newspaper clippings, etc. are incredibly special. It would be a shame to lose any of that, even if it is just a copy of a photo. Make digital copies of each of these heirlooms and make sure you are properly storing them. You can learn more about preserving old photographs here.
You want your research to last for years and years to come. Let your research not just outlive you, but your future generations, too. By applying the LOCKSS principle, you can rest easy, knowing that your work is almost 100% safe. If you are unfamiliar with the LOCKSS principle, let us fill you in. It is a widely accepted and practice principle in the field of digital preservation. It stands for Lots of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe. The gist? Have as many copies as possible in as many different places as possible. This should keep the research and finding you’ve worked hard for safe. Store your many copies in many places, in many formats.