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Library of Congress Contributes Chapter to New Personal Digital Archiving Book

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Information Today recently published Personal Archiving: Preserving Our Digital Heritage, a collection of essays written by some of the leading practitioners, thinkers and researchers in the emerging field of personal digital archiving. We are honored that Information Today — and especially the book’s editor, Donald Hawkins — asked us to share our resources and experiences by contributing an essay to the book.

The term “personal digital archiving” can be interpreted in different ways, but I think it generally applies to digital preservation at the individual level as opposed to the institutional level. I say that the term “generally applies” because the concept of personal can be slippery to define.

Personal digital archiving could equally apply to individuals interested in securely saving their digital photos, families sharing and archiving all manner of born-digital and digitized memorabilia, local history and genealogy groups trying to deal with the increasing influx of digital material, public libraries acquiring non-commercial digital collections from the communities they serve and academics taking responsibility for the preservation of their digital professional works. So, for Personal Archiving: Preserving Our Digital Heritage, editor Donald Hawkins chose authors with a range of backgrounds and interests.

Summarizing the book might not do it justice, so here’s a quick look at the contents.

Brewster Kahl, visionary founder of the Internet Archives, wrote the introduction and he addresses personal digital archiving as an emerging societal phenomenon. “Excitement is growing as researchers learn from one another and welcome the type of sharing culture that comes before commercial players enter a field,” said Kahl.

Jeff Ubois, the founder of the annual Personal Digital Archiving conference, gives the informed, high-level view in his essay, “Personal Archives: What They Are, What They Could Be and Why They Matter.”

Danielle Conklin wrote, “Personal Archiving for Individuals and Families,” in which she examines the approaches that four different individuals take to their personal digital archiving projects.

I wrote “The Library of Congress and Personal Digital Archiving,” which summarizes the Library of Congress’s efforts to date: our print, video and audio resources; our outreach events and educational presentations to the general public and our collaboration with the Public Library Association to spread awareness of personal digital archiving resources into local communities. The essay also covers our general step-by-step advice for preserving personal digital valuables.

Editor Donald Hawkins wrote, “Software and Services for Personal Archiving,” in which he assesses media collection systems for photos and documents, notes, email archives and home movies and videos.

Evan Carroll, one of the leading experts in the complexity of digital-age estate planning, wrote “Digital Inheritance: Tackling the Legal Issues.”

Catherine Marshall, of Microsoft Research, wrote “Social Media, Personal Data and Reusing Our Digital Legacy.” Marshall specializes in objective research into what people actually do or don’t do with their digital stuff — human nature versus best practices.

Jason Zallinger, Nathan Freier and Ben Shneiderman co-wrote, “Reading Ben Shneiderman’s Email: Identifying Narrative Elements in Email Archives,” in which they analyzed 45,000 of Shneiderman’s emails for narrative elements.

Elisa Stern Cahoy wrote “Faculty Members as Archivists: Personal Archiving Practices in the Academic Environment.”

In “Landscape of Personal Digital Archiving Activities and Research,” author Sarah Kim goes into the kind of exhaustive comprehensive detail that only a PhD candidate can.

Aaron Ximm wrote “Active Personal Archiving and the Internet Archive” in which he details how the Internet Archive is already a public resource for personal digital archiving and he suggests some futuristic possibilities for the IA in actively capturing and preserving networked personal histories.

In “Our Technology Heritage,” Richard Banks of Microsoft Research details his philosophic and scientific observations about the intersection of the material and digital worlds, and their implications for next-generation technology.

Donald Hawkins, Christopher Prom and Peter Chan write about three interesting research projects in “New Horizons in Personal Archiving: 1 Second Everyday, myKive and MUSE.”

And appropriately, the book concludes with an essay from Clifford Lynch,  “The Future of Personal Digital Archiving: Defining the Research Agendas.” One of Lynch’s gifts is his ability to make sense of concepts like personal digital context within broader contexts — in the entire informational and cultural ecosystem — and extrapolate where things might evolve next. Lynch is one of academia’s great explainers.


  1. For the sake of open access, a quick search found free, publicly-available pre-print versions of some articles:


    Zalinger, et al:


    There may or may not be an additional sample chapter available online. Would love for folks to add more pre-print links if they find them.

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