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We Talked and Talked About Personal Digital Archiving

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The following is a guest post by Erin Engle, Digital Archivist, NDIIPP.

A man wanted to migrate his dissertation from punch cards.

Kid and floppy disk, by wlef70, on Flickr
Kid and floppy disk, by wlef70, on Flickr

A young girl held a floppy disk for the first time and expressed wonder that it had anything to do with digital information.

A woman–the family archivist–wanted to pass her digital collection to the next generation.

These are some of personal stories I heard at the National Book Festival on the National Mall in Washington, DC this past weekend.

For the second year in a row, NDIIPP participated in the festival, providing personal digital archiving advice to all comers. My colleagues and I had a fantastic time at our table in the Library of Congress Pavilion.

We enjoyed talking with hundreds of people who stopped by. We had the chance to hear directly about hopes, dreams and fears about saving personal digital information.  And even more importantly, we spoke with lots of people who hadn’t given much thought to the issue.

NDIIPP Team at the 2011 National Book Festival, by wlef70, on Flickr
NDIIPP Team at the 2011 National Book Festival, by wlef70, on Flickr

Over the two day festival, we passed out handouts providing high-level personal digital archiving tips (based on information from our website), answered questions about how to save digital photos and other forms of digital information, and talked to people about how technology has changed over time.

Computer storage media and other technology changes very quickly, a fact that we demonstrated with a display of obsolete equipment.  This is an effective way of reminding people that what they create and save today may not be accessible just a few years later.

We had an array of older storage and computer technology on display. These relics from the past really engaged the public walking past our table. Someone even described it as a “walk down memory lane.” We had examples of punch cards, 8-in and 3.5 in floppy disks, zip disks, hard drives, laser discs, and even an Apple PowerBook Duo 270c from 1992. Talk about a relic!

At the 2011 NBF, by wlef70, on Flickr
At the 2011 NBF, by wlef70, on Flickr

I was pleased to see such a positive response from people who stopped to talk to us, told us their personal stories of the family memory projects they’re working on or just stopped by to say, “I remember floppy disks, I still have some lying around.” Our engagement with people at the book festival is one of highlights from last year and I can say right now, it will be for 2011!

Thanks to everyone who visited us at this year’s book festival. We’d love your feedback, so take a few minutes and fill out this Library of Congress has a survey.

See you next year!


  1. it was a great and informative display! Thanks for your outreach to ordinary citizens who need this information!

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