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Beyond Scrapbooking

UNLV Libraries shares its expertise on preserving your digital collection of photos and documents before it's too late. Learn more at upcoming events.

Business & Community  |  Apr 17, 2013  |  By UNLV News Center

Preservation of documents printed and digital, is a key role for UNLV Libraries. (Aaron Mayes / UNLV Photo Services)

Editor's Note: 

Learn more about UNLV Libraries' resources for preserving history at the Festival of Communities on April 20. On April 27, the Libraries will host a Preservation Week Open House focusing on rare books.

The Spinning Beachball, the Blue Screen of Death, Unlawful Kernel Error or just an empty screen — the moment when a computer crashes has many names, but they all prompt sheer panic when you suddenly realize you didn't back up the wedding video, the photos of the baby or a decade of vacation memories. In a moment it’s all gone.

Preservation of documents is a key role for UNLV Libraries, said Cory Lampert, head of digital collections at UNLV Libraries.

“People create so much digital information they don’t realize how much they have, and don’t realize it until they lose it,” Lampert said. “Because (UNLV Libraries has) expertise on this on a larger scale, we like to share the information. (You) may not have the same equipment or staff, but the principles still apply.”

Lamperts tips include:

  • Use photo sharing sites to keep treasured photos off the computer’s hard drive and stored in a remote location where they can be downloaded anywhere there’s an Internet connection.
  • Use external hard drives for storage ofmportant documents, photos and videos, but Lampert recommends keeping the drive in another location in case of natural disaster or fire.
  • Name files descriptively will help you find them quickly.
  • Back up photos from your smartphone regularly will ensure no information is lost if the phone meets a watery demise or is lost, stolen, or broken.

Why would the UNLV Libraries be concerned with how Las Vegas residents preserve their personal histories? The city is a mere 108 years old, which means many families in town had a lot to do with the city’s growth, whether they’ve been in the city five years or 50.

“Nobody knows who may be interested in (a) personal history,” Lampert said. “It starts with preserving the artifacts in the first place, so we can be prepared for the future and whatever it may bring.”

Take, for instance, a scrapbook page. Digital Collections scans each individual item on the page as well as the entire page to preserve the aesthetic of the artifact. A letter would be scanned to preserve both its image as well as the text content. “We make things searchable. We also try to replicate the original in order to preserve the artifact,” Lampert said. “We do this, so later on, you can find all of your photos.”

No matter the equipment, some preservation is better than none at all, Lampert said. Anyone with a point-and-shoot digital camera can snap high resolution images of certificates, old photos, important files and papers.

“What’s important is just to get people to think in the mindset,” she added. “It’s more important just to do it.”

About Digital Collections

The UNLV Libraries Digital Collections unit works to create and provide free access to digital resources that support the teaching and research needs of UNLV and the Southern Nevada community, and uniquely document the rich history of the university and state of Nevada. Resources are free and publicly accessible online. Digital resources include text-based materials such as books, journal series, manuscript collections, photographic images, slides, maps, prints, posters, audio, and video. Collections include the Southern Nevada Boomtown Years, The Historic Landscape of Nevada, Menus: The Art of Dining, Howard Hughes, Nevada Test Site Oral History Project, Showgirls, Las Vegas and Water in the West, Southern Nevada & Las Vegas: History in Maps and many more.

More: Find out about about document preservation and view the UNLV collections on the digital collections website.


UNLV Libraries' eConnections newsletter, Spring 2013