Data Rot & Archiving


About six years ago David Pogue did an insightful piece titled, Data Rot (see the link at the end). It examined the problems inherent in fast changing technologies and how in a space of a few years the data that we have accumulated can be rendered useless.


Digital archiving, data migration, and longevity remain serious concerns for today’s photographers. In the great documentary SIDE BY SIDE there are two remarkable quotes:

Michael Goi, President of the American Society of Cinematographers says:
“…since the early 1950’s, since the advent of commercial television, there have been 80 formats of video to-date. And most of them cannot be played anymore because the machines simply don’t exist.”

And movie director Martin Scorsese says: “…the only way you can make sure that a film or anything on the moving image is going to be around, maybe 60, 70 years from now, interestingly enough, ironically enough, is celluloid.”
















For writers, creating a printed hard copy, longevity is relatively easy. For photo-graphers it is quite a bit more complicated. Aside from the standard solutions such as data back-up hard drives, arrays, DVD, and Blu-ray, there is also the acid-free archival print. I think it never hurts to create a large print on archival pH balanced paper of the images you really care about.


However, much of the complication in creating archival prints in this digital age depends on your inkjet printer, the printer’s pigment inks (not dyes), and the type of paper you use.


Epson and Canon manufacture wide-carriage multi-cartridge inkjet desktop printers capable of producing archival prints at a 13 and 17 inch paper width. They also manufacture large format printers for prints from 24 inch to 44 inches wide.


Canon has their Lucia line of archival inks while Epson has their Ultrachrome K3 inks. Both companies produce excellent high-quality printers.


There are several different pH balanced papers available from a variety of vendors
and you need not adhere to your printer brand such as Canon or Epson for papers. Canson, Hahnemuhle, Ilford, Innova, Moab, Museo, and others produce acid-free papers for inkjets. In fact, you may even find an excellent pH balanced acid-free paper at your local art store as a “museum” or “rag” paper.


The Wilhelm Institute has many reports on the image permanence, optimal storage, the qualities of inks and papers, as well as regarding their active display and dark keeping qualities.


This article is also a good source of information.,review-1341.html



Data Rot

And this video by David Pogue is still quite relevant.


Unsighted, 1972



New life for
old prints?

Are scanning negatives and inkjets the
best path to permanence?

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