This BALH talk was given by Ellie Pridgeon on May 2nd 2021 about archiving both society and individual digital records.  Now that almost all communication is electronic and very little is handwritten it is important that digital documents, photographs and important e-mails are archived.   Most digital documents are now “born digital” records rather than copies of paper records.

Ellie explained about “bit rot” which means that digital records in time will degrade and eventually some will not be readable.  This is especially true if the records are being regularly accessed and amended.  So important documents should be archived (and kept secure and not accessed) and a copy made which can be used.  Images should be retained in TIFF file format.

Ellie said that three copies of digital records should be kept: one on the hard disk of the computer, one in cloud storage (such as BT Cloud) and one on an external drive or data pen.  Depending on usage, data pens and hard drives have a life of around 5 years (and speaking from experience, it is important not to rely on a data pen).  Important e-mails should be archived outside of the e-mail system where possible; using the archive facility in (say) Outlook just stores them in a different folder on Outlook.  Important files should be stored as pdfs for example, and not as software-specific files.  Ellie gave the example of Photoshop files which can only be opened by Photoshop software.

Ellie then reminded us that web sites are transitory and may be removed and changed over time.  In order to keep an archive of web pages there are three possibilities:

Use Screen Capture software – this is built into Windows computers (using CTRL and prt sc will capture the screen so it can be pasted into Word for example.  Alternatively, there is the Snip and Sketch utility in Windows 10.  Apple computers have a similar facility.

Using the UK Web Archive ( – once  a year a large number of web sites are archived and can then be accessed when they are no longer available.

Using Web recording – this is a new facility whereby all the interactions with a website (including videos) can be recorded.  For example, the web pages relating to the 1418now website ( , the record of WWI centenary arts commissions (including the poppies artwork and the film “They Shall Not Grow Old”) has been archived in this way for posterity.