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Archival Storage for Digital Images



Preamble: This thread may fit better elsewhere, however, I could not find another appropriate Hasselblad forum section covering all manner of V and H digital capture.

Disclaimer: I do not use digital capture yet, but like death and taxes, it will eventually happen I presume (unless death precedes it.)

And your point is ??

Just recently I had a print sale from negatives I created in 1964. The Ilford B&W 6x6 negatives are still in top order, having been archived well. When I made the sale, the buyer (who wasn't born in 1964) wondered aloud about how digital files would last - given the changes in storage apparatus/es. She was in the music industry and told about LP and EP records after 78s, 8 track players, cassettes, 5.25 floppy discs and so on. Especially, she spoke about changing software, and how information saved now on a CD or DVD may be not be readable in 2047. (It won't be my concern.)

I then got to thinking about Beta and VHS etc. in my recent memory, as well. And I have at least one mile/1.6km of 8mm and Super 8 film, which will be expensive to change to CD/DVD.

So ... what does the Forum think about the future of archival storage for Digital Files?

What are Forum users with 'digi-backs' doing now for the potentially tens of thousands of files they will accumulate (or have)?

Will technology change so much that by 2047, there will be no way to recover the files? Sounds un-real, but have you ever tried to open a DOS file on a PC lately.?

Just thought I'd ask.


> Think of it this way....NASA is unable to read tapes from the early > Lunar Landers ( or should I say "Crashers") because of hardware/ > media incompatibilities. Draw your own conclusions about digital > media/formats and the ability to access them after 30-40-50 years

Remember, you need not only the media, but you will need a working computer with supported devices to read the media, suitable device drivers, and software capable of interpreting the file formats. > .

PS Does anyone else out there remember the 12 inch hard, removable, coated aluminum media from the early/mid 1970s used on mini- computers??? They were about 1-2 Mb/platter as I recall. You had to load a boot program using binary code off front panel toggle switches,and then boot the system from a paper tape loader BEFORE you could access ANYTHING else, including the keyboard!

What about those ever popular TRS-80 and Pet computers ( late 1970s) that stored binary information as audible patterns on standard audio cassette tape???

Trust me...the nightmares have not even begun ..........
Funny, I am right now this minute scanning positive films for a client that were shot in the 50's and 60's. The 4X5 has gone a bit reddish, but I used a flatbed with color restoration software and now the scan images are as good as new. The 6X6 stuff I'm scanniing on the Imacon is like it was shot yesterday (probably stored better).

In general terms, I think more prints tend to survive than film itself. Most family archives are a dresser drawer or a trunk filled with family photos, accompanied by few if any negs. These are often actually easier to scan than films. I recently scanned images from the 20s and 30's for the same client ... and just before that I scanned and restored my parents wedding photos from 1945. I also restored a photo of my Grandfather in his WWI Doughboy uniform of the U.S. Dirigible Corps.

It's a throw away world now. More people see my image than before, but I doubt many in the future will ... like my Grand Daughter's kids.

So, Marc, in your opinion, would it follow on this theme that a "doughboy" record generated in Iraq, whose image is digital, transmitted by email perhaps, and then held only a hard drive or other storage (no paper copy), will probably not be available to future generations? I think this is probably right.

It tells me that, somehow, people should get to realise this. I'm cool with the 'throwaway' world if it's a record of some current event, but even from a genealogical viewpoint alone, hard copy might be imperative ... .

What do you do right now? Personal or Commercial. Local drives and DVDs or backed up offsite as well, or hard copy, or ...


Sure, I still have such a computer front panel. And a friend of mine still has the machines running to read those disks.

I only have 256KB 8" floppy disks left ;-)

As someone who makes his living doing digital data storage: your concerns are very real. It is not just a joke when archivists tell you that archiving is the art of throwing things away. The right things that is.

In addition to rewriting your data every 4 or 5 year to the latest fashion in data storage there is the very real problem of "how do I ever find what I want?". Very difficult problem to tackle.

The total amount of stored data currently approximately doubles every year. And the rate is increasing.

All these proprietary and undocumented file formats are also a royal pain politely speaking. Hassy digibacks are in that sense for their raw format not on the right track.

The problem , Colin came up with , was very often discussed in german PhotoMagazines .
But , as I said , it was discussed . It ended up so far with a "solution" , Wilko mentioned .
Write your data to an other disk every 4-5 years (or even earlier) and have a backup , which of course you have to write to an other disk as well .
And have a backup of a backup's backup .

You can do all that , as long as your software/hardware still can handle the stored data and formats .

Wilko , you must not store the HASSELBLAD RAW 3FR format . You can also store your images as DNG or TIFF . So thats not the problem and storage space is relatively cheap today in comparison to lets say 10 years ago .

Photographers having a huge amount of data , might use a good RAID storage system .

But what me concerns more , is that there is no good database system available up to now .
If anyone of you knows one , please let me know .
My dream would be a database system , based on IBM's DB2 using SQL .
Hi Jurgen,

Could you not use something like IView MediaPro/Expression or Extensis Portfolio, to keep track of your images?

you guys may want to read on DAM digital asset management!! Peter Krogh has a very good book out.

At my ad agency we are archiving thousands and thousands of images for all kinds of clients. It's why I am scanning color film shots from the 50s and 60s before they completely go bad.
These are stored on our server as well as off site.

I have at least 6 years worth of wedding images (over 100,000) for instant access. My technique is to lay off all weddings by date/client name for a given year to it's own dedicated hard drive, and shelve that drive. The images are all backed up on DVDs (which I've since abandoned in favor of backing up on a 2 terabyte drive. Each client has a set of e-film gold DVDs which I urge them to copy.

File format storage is in RAW 3f (or DNG) and Tiff. If I store 3fs, I copy the Flexcolor program to that drive just in case.

Programs such as Photoshop aren't helping the cause. The recent introduction of the Canon1DMKIIi is a case in point. PSCS3 supports the Canon RAW files, but Adobe never added suport for those RAW files to PSCS2 ... forcing an upgrade to CS3 if you want to use Photoshop to open the 1DMKIII RAW files.
> Of course, but that gets into another issue...what about the > projected lifespan of your tracking software?

> Anyone here remember 4th Dimension on Macintosh? It was "the" > database for Macs for many years, but now I see it very seldom. > Another 10 yrs, and I doubt it will be available. What about dBase > II? Filemaker seems a bit more stable, but only because they also > offer a Windows version to keep sales afloat. And these packages > were the "most common" database cores used by developers for many > other 3rd party applications on PCs. If you have package that is > truly "proprietary" from the bottom up, such s a specialty image > tracking package that was written for that purpose and that purpose > alone, you are in an even more unstable position.

> Then you have to figure out how to transfer your "database" of > images/descriptions/spec to something else. Not as easy as it may > sound (I do this for a living with the "Big Boys" of Oracle and > Rdb). By then, manual re-entry will probably nor be viable either > based on the sheer volume of data. By the time you have noticed > that the software you use is fading away, it is often too late as > support has already waned.
>> I hate to say this (I really do because I do database and database >> migration work professionally), but the image tracking method >> LEAST prone to obsolesence and also the CHEAPEST is still the old >> method used in libraries for 200 years (before the digital age). >> Index cards and cross referencing..."ye ol' card >> catalogue"....maybe with a thumbnail of the image on the card if >> you get fancy. Think of it as being the "least common denominator" >> of all search/record/retrieval methods.

>> It will last for 100+ years, be retrievable and readable for >> several hundred more, and you never have to "upgrade". The BIG >> disadvantage is, of course, retrieval speed is measured in minutes >> (maybe even hours) instead of fractions of a second. >
G'Day Robert:

The Index system you describe is how I track my images now. It's the Turtle system. Slow and steady. A page of negatives (glassine sleeves back then, and now the latest poly archivals) and a contact proof sheet (or now, a rough scan) . But, of course, I have the negative, and the positive, in the card system.

My first negatives are from 116 size film c.1956, home processed, and contact printed.

Here's the rub. I've had DOS PC, AppleII, Macintosh, Mac, MacII, and iMac. I can't even read DOS PC (family history)database info from 1993 software, without jumping through hoops. I see that there are frequent updates for the CFV (understandably). Everytime I power up the Intel iMac I have myriad updates. If I closed down for a 8 week vacation in Timbuktu (I wish), I'd never catch up. :) But, with my negatives filing, I go to a folder.

So, when I do move to Digital, I need gameplan. I think we all do.

At the home consumer level, it probably doesn't matter so much. Although I must confess it was neat to recently send my son an email with a picture of him as a newborn (33 years ago) which looked to be almost identical to the picture he sent me of his newborn son. I wonder if home consumer level families will have that ability in 33 years time?

I'm not saying "the sky is falling", but I'm guessing that the early film makers/artists would have preferred not to have all their works disappear from history.



I have been on the Iview webpage and will further investigate the extensis as well .
Thanks .


It is a good idea to copy FLEXCOLOR to the same media than you save your 3FR data to .
But how long will a dataset be good on a GOLDEN DVD ? ? as long as on magnetic HARD DISK DRIVES ? ?
I do believe , that even if your saved data are stored on golden DVD's , you will loose them after a couple of years when you do not save them again on either medium .

Any experience here ? ? ?
I had a similar experience when I was able to email pictures, taken 36 years ago on horrible Perutz slide film of my son, to his best man for use in the wedding speech.
The colours had all faded but I restored them in Photoshop. One was printed at AO size and looked great.

I am scanning my collection of negatives and slides and this was definitely a benefit from the exercise as I already had the pictures in the computer so sending them was quick and easy.

As for being able to look at the images in the future, I store mine on 4 separate hardrives all linked by Alway Sync Pro which is a program which "syncs" changes between drives so that each drive ends up holding the same information.

The three external drives are connected by USB 2. I would have thought and certainly hope that it will always be possible to connect USB drives to a computer and read the information on the drives.

It's possible that USB will become obsolete but I would have thought it to be more likely that it wil instead develop in the way that we now have USB 2 rather than USB 1.

Hard drives may become solid state but I hope that current ones will continue to be readable.

I am also considering copying pictures to BlueRay when the prices fall. This may certainly be superseded in time but I suppose one would have to keep up with the technology and copy them to the new formats as they arrive.

Anyway, at the moment I am sticking with my hard drives.

Perhaps the answer for the future is to hang on to a current computer with its current technology permanently and keep it in the loft as I do with my slide projector (I will get it out and use it again soon as nothing beats a well projected slide!). This could then be used way into the future if the then current technolgy did not allow our images from now to be seen.
Recently I heard a talk from someone who works for a TV station. They converted very early to DVD recording. Now after about 10 years they observe deterioration which starts at the outside. Apart from copying the data every few years to new media to avoid these problems his advice was to leave a bit of space on the DVD. Do not use the full storage capacity because data are written from the inside to the outside.


Sending your data to a professional remote storage (company) has one advantage .
They "must" take care of the currently known problems and backup your data , as per current safety regulations .
The disadvantage is , its not cheap .

G'Day John:

@ Perutz !

There's a blast from the past. It was distributed by Hanimex in Australia, and as I recall I used Perutz at times to break the 3 week turnaround cycle for Kodachrome 25. But, wow, what quaint colours! Having said that, my Perutz 35mmm trannies are still sitting in their light tight boxes, ready for viewing or scanning. If I dare. :)

The same company sold me my first SLR - a Practica - with non return mirror, and a pre-set screw mount Carl Zeiss Jena f2 58mm Biotar. Pretty good lens, for early post war. The camera was a tank ... doubled as a wheel chock, and a door stop, and worked every time.