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Digital Preservation: Personal Preservation

What is Personal Preservation?

Personal preservation is “...preserving any digital collection that falls outside the purview of large cultural institutions.” 

--Ashenfelder, M. (2015, August 3). The Personal Digital Archiving 2015 Conference [Web log post]. The Signal. Library of Congress. Retrieved from

In this case, personal preservation also refers to professional research data and documents that are not at a University-level but that are still relevant to faculty work. The strategies provided here apply to University resources, but may also apply to your own personal/home files.


1. Local: your local machine

  • Desktop, laptop, tablet, etc.

2. External: an external drive

3. Cloud: VT Google Drive

  • Unlimited storage
  • Automatic sync with the Chrome Application Launcher for Drive (by Google)




Manage your data

  1. Monitor your back-ups regularly to ensure they are operating properly
  2. Set reminders:
    1. Every year: Check your preserved files to ensure you can still open and read them
    2. Every 5 years: Migrate copies to new storage spaces
  3. Verify your checksums

XKCD on Digital Data

Courtesy of XKCD:

Why preserve personal data

Pros Cons
"Saving" doesn't mean you can open it in the future

Time-consuming process to appraise, organize, migrate files, and set up storage and syncing

Technologies can fail or become obsolete

Requires long-term maintenance and staying up-to-date on basic preservation standards

You may want to access or modify  data after it has been submitted to VTechWorks, VTechData, or another institution Requires storage space
Helps in preparing content transfer to University-level preservation environments  


Data Preparation Process

  1. Know your data
    • File format: determines the ideal preservation format
    • Size estimations: helps choose external and cloud storage and prepare for additional storage
    • Security: who has access and any access parameters
    • Organization: find it later
  2. Document your process
    • Google docs or something similar
    • Keep track of everything above as well as your chosen technologies and any resources
    • Prepare summaries and descriptions of each major directory to keep within the directory
  3. Prepare for always increasing your storage
    • Assuming you are always creating material and wanting to preserve it, your storage will also need to increase regularly 

Data Appraisal

Appraisal up to you, but here are a few things to consider as you sort through your files. 


  • Final paper drafts
  • Multiple dataset versions
  • Final presentation drafts
  • Videos
  • Photos
  • Final metadata
  • Files eventually intended for University preservation
  • Descriptions of what is preserved
  • Temporary files
  • Working/incomplete files
  • Multiple paper versions
  • Multiple presentation versions

Preservation File Formats

File formats evolve or become obsolete, and new formats are developed. Ideally you want a non-proprietary, lossless file format. Current best practices for file formats include but are not limited to: 

Text Portable Document Format (PDF/A)
Plaintext Plaintext (TXT)
Image Tagged Image File Format (TIFF)
Audio Waveform Audio File Format (WAVE)
Video Matroska Multimedia Container (MKV)
Email Multi-namespace message box (MBOX)
Website WebARChive file format (WARC)