Author: Gina Strack

Processing Archivist at the Utah State Archives.

Butch Cassidy Indicted

digital_crime-butchAs a preview to a brand new online collection called “Crime in Utah,” the grand jury indictment of the notorious Butch Cassidy from 1897 is now online. He and several others were accused of robbing the payroll from the Pleasant Valley Coal Company in Castle Gate, Utah.

The case file is from the Seventh District Court for Carbon County.

Personal Digital Archiving

Photo by Open Minder / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 / https://flic.kr/p/cB6m9J

As part of Preservation Week, we wanted to share information on how you can preserve one of the more difficult forms of records both for institutions like the Utah State Archives and in our personal lives: digital and electronic.

Why Digital is Special

Paper is one of the more stable forms on which people have recorded information throughout history, using it to “…make our laws, conduct our business, correspond with our loved ones, decorate our walls, and establish our identities.” 1 And then came the Digital Revolution. Advances in electronics, devices, and communication have radically changed how we save and record information. While the new abilities are amazing and useful, they also introduce new problems for the long-term.

Digital formats (word processing documents, spreadsheets, web pages, texts) and media (hard drives, thumb drives, CDs, the “cloud”) are surprisingly fragile in their own ways. Documents become corrupt or get left behind in software upgrades, hard drives have a terrible habit of failing without warning, and anything portable can be easily lost. Also, with the extension in capacity comes that many more items to manage and preserve.

Selection and Organization

Do we just save everything just in case? Unfortunately this is a poor method of having anything valuable survive into the future. There are costs associated with storing more than you need, from the payment to a cloud service based on size to the increased failure of some of the largest hard drives. 2 These costs may drive short-term decisions in the wrong direction with terrible results. It will take time, but out of the many files created in a digital life, only some should be selected for caretaking. These might include:

  • family photographs
  • email
  • important documents and vital records
  • financial information
  • genealogy
  • audio and video recordings

Any organization system will work as long as you use it. Key points include using enough details for someone else to understand (who is “Aunt May”?) and using filenames to sort for you. For example, use the most important detail at the beginning, if it’s the date lead a filename with YYYYMMDD to stay in chronological order.

Clutter can thrive just as well on your computer as in the hall closet. Schedule a regular time to go through files, whether when you add them–as in downloading photographs from your phone, or a time of year like tax season. 3 Even if your “backlog” is large, you can start good habits now to keep it from growing in the meantime. Unlike that back of the closet, forgetting about digital files means they may disappear long before you get around to it again, so aim for yearly check-ups at the very least.

Preservation

Learn more about Preservation Week April 23-29, 2017

There is no single method for digital preservation, it’s a complex issue that is being tackled by archives and library professionals around the world. A few things to get you started:

  1. Diversity your storage – much like your investment portfolio it’s a good idea to use different media and locations for storage. Spread your files around by function, form, or what works best for you. 4
  2. Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe (LOCKSS) – used by libraries to plan multiple copies in multiple locations to guard against media failure and even natural disasters. 5 Depending on how you set it up, a computer backup may be a good duplicate copy, but don’t rely on automation you don’t fully understand.
  3. The “3-2-1” rule – an easy to remember way to figure out your copies and storage solutions. 6
    • Make 3 copies
    • Save at least 2 copies on different types of media
    • Save 1 in a location different from where you live or work

Preserving your digital life may be hard, but it’s not impossible. Understanding the risks and taking a few starting steps will go a long way toward being able to have photographs, letters (email), video, and more for the next generation.

Additional Resources

[1] Nicholas Basbanes, On Paper: The Everything of Its Two-Thousand-Year History (New York: Vintage Books, 2013), xii.
[2] Backblaze, “Annualized Hard Drive Failure Rates,” https://www.backblaze.com/blog/hard-drive-failure-rates-q2-2016/ (accessed April 27, 2017).
[3] Smithsonian Institute Archives, “Clean Sweep in the New Year: Organizing Digital Photos,” https://siarchives.si.edu/blog/clean-sweep-new-year-organizing-digital-photos (accessed April 27, 2017).
[4] Library of Congress, “Why Digital Preservation is Important for You,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VWkPufGDA6o (accessed April 27, 2017).
[5] LOCKSS, “Preservation Principles,” https://www.lockss.org/about/principles/ (accessed April 27, 2017).
[6] Digital Photography Best Practices and Workflows, “Backup Overview,” American Society of Media Photographers, http://www.dpbestflow.org/backup/backup-overview (accessed April 27, 2017).

Records Preservation Grant Funding Available

record-book_28507The Utah State Archives and Records Service in cooperation with the Utah State Historical Records Advisory Board has grant funding available to non-profit cultural heritage organizations and local governments for historical records preservation projects.

Funding can be used to help Utah repositories preserve at-risk, historic records and to provide access to important collections. These grants are intended for short-term projects. This year we are pleased to offer grants of up to $7,500. All grants require a one-to-one in-kind and/or cash match. Grant work cannot begin until July 10, 2017 and all work must be completed by June 25, 2018.  All grants must contain a public access component, such as posting digital images online or creating an on-line finding aid or index.  Grant funding comes from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, which is the granting arm of the National Archives.

Applications are required and must be received by April 5. We require each grant applicant to have a Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number before submitting an application. The grant guidelines and application are available at online. For further information, contact Janell Tuttle at jtuttle@utah.gov.

Legislative Publications

As the 2017 Legislative Session winds up, we’d like to highlight some relevant legislative publications that have been updated recently.

It’s always best to start with a Research Guide, such as Legislative History or Legislative Records Overview.

The Unannotated Code is the complete, codified law statutes reflecting changes in the most recent session. It has been published since 1982.

The Utah Code Annotated is, however, immensely valuable when it comes to research in the legislative process and how bills turn into law (and sometimes even the intent of the legislation). Unlike other records and publications that are produced by government agencies and preserved by the Utah State Archives, this publication represents the work of editors experienced with legal research,  and is purchased for research and historical context. Supplements and replacement (“pocket parts”) are released a couple times a year.

Administrative Rules are created by agencies of the state’s executive branch and are enacted as laws under regulatory authority granted by the Legislature or the State Constitution. In short, the Legislature has created a method by which Executive branch agencies can codify their own policies and procedures and give them the force of law. Like the Utah Code, the Administrative Code is compiled with authorization by editors and published for the use of legal research. The most up-to-date information on rules is always found at rules.utah.gov.

1850 Weber County Census Online

Image from 1850 Federal Census Weber County Population ScheduleThe original Federal Census Population Schedule for Weber County from 1850 is now online. This census represents the first time that Weber County and the rest of Utah Territory was enumerated by the federal government. The series is significant, in part, because it was previously believed by many that the 1850 census for Utah was only taken on handmade forms and that Utah did not have access to the federal forms. The 1850 Census contains a lot of information concerning the residents of Weber County. It includes the names of everyone living in the county, as well as gender, age, birthplace, occupation, etc. Based on the schedules in this series, the number of residents in Weber County was about 1,141.

Regional Repository Statewide Forum

regional-repository-promo (2017)Currently there are eleven officially recognized regional repositories throughout the state.  The regional repositories are authorized to collect, process, preserve and make available historical records for research and study by the public.  The State Archives can provide copies of government records to these Regional Repositories so people don’t have to travel to Salt Lake City to see government records for their region. Working together with institutions throughout the state, the Utah State Historical Records Advisory Board is committed to preserving Utah’s historical records for future generations.

On March 30, 2017 representatives of these repositories will be meeting at the Utah State Archives to learn, exchange ideas, and plan for the future of the program as this is the 10th anniversary for this meeting.  The USHRAB Consortium is also invited to this meeting.

Records Retrieval Maintenance March 1-2, 2017

asrs-boxes_1200x800Visitors to the Research Center on March 1-2, 2017 will not be able to retrieve records from the collection due to scheduled maintenance. Please plan on visiting either before or after to access records that are not in the Research Center itself. For questions, you may call (801) 245-7227.

RootsTech 2017

Utah State Archives booth at RootsTech 2017
Utah State Archives booth at RootsTech 2017

The RootsTech conference in Salt Lake City was a great experience for the Utah State Archives. It was wonderful to to meet so many old and new friends.