Preserving Holiday Memories from Camera Phones

We are officially in the holiday season, which means dessert, decoration, family, friends, and of course…memories!  But are you taking care of yours properly so you can revisit Christmases past in the future?

In the past, families stored photographs in albums and boxes.  Now, photographs exist digitally on hard drives, phones, and in the cloud.  Most pictures we take are on phone cameras. Are these photographs as safe as the physical photographs we stored in albums and boxes? The answer is “no,” but there is a solution that will help you protect these memories. 

Herald Citizen, December 1965.

For starters, make sure that your phone is saving photographs in two places – both on the phone and through a backup cloud service. This creates two copies in case you misplace your phone after too much eggnog or it falls in the punch bowl. After the holidays, go through the photographs you took.  Take them off your phone, delete unnecessary photographs, describe your photographs, create meaningful file names (for example, YYYY-MM-DD John Doe.jpg), and save the photographs in more than one location.  For instance, save one copy of the photographs on the computer and a second on a portable hard drive or cloud service.  Keep the second copy of your photographs in a different geographic location in case one location suffers a disastrous event such as flooding. Lastly, check on these storage devices and files annually and change your storage media every five years. Unlike the boxes and albums containing photographs of Christmases past, digital media has a short life span.  Letting digital media sit indefinitely is detrimental to your digital photographs and you are in danger of not being able to open them because of storage media malfunctions, outdated software, or lacking the hardware to read the obsolete media (remember floppy disk drives?).

Herald Citizen, December 1971.

This same process should be used with all of your digital memories so that you can ensure future access. 

For more information on preserving digital photographs and memories, check out these instructions by the Library of Congress.

Or for a more detailed lesson in personal digital archiving, see this guide provided by the University of Michigan Library’s Sarah Wingo.

About University Archives

Archives and Special Collections resides in Angelo and Jennette Volpe Library on the first floor. The collection includes materials of legal, fiscal and historical significance to Tennessee Tech University and documents the history of the Upper Cumberland Region. The collection includes over 2,500 cubic feet of manuscripts, photographs, and archives from Tennessee Tech as well as surrounding people, businesses, and organizations of the Upper Cumberland. The collection contains books on the history and culture of the Upper Cumberland Region of Tennessee.
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