Did you know…

Magnetic tape, 3M, 6250 CPI for computer tape ...

Magnetic tape, 3M, 6250 CPI for computer tape drives, used as storage media between 1970 and 1990 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1975, NASA sent two Viking space probes to Mars. The data generated by these unrepeatable missions – produced at a total mission cost of approximately $1 billion – was recorded onto magnetic tape. Two decades later, the tapes were cracking and brittle, despite climate-controlled storage, and the formats were unreadable. To access the data, NASA had to track down old print outs and retype everything. NASA has subsequently become one of the world’s biggest supporters of digital continuity.


Promise #2 – The Public Sector Digital Landfill

Digital Continuity logo

Refer: 14 Unfulfilled Promises


In my post “The Public Sector Digital Landfill” I described how NZ Archives were creating a Digital Continuity Strategy that would “ensure that valuable information is preserved and migrated when necessary to the latest formats and media, appropriate metadata is attached, and documents that are no longer relevant are securely deleted”.

I also expressed some excitement at the fact that NZ Archives had drawn up a “Digital Continuity Action Plan“, and stated that I would be following the progress of it.

Delivering on the Promise

I admit that I didn’t follow what was happening with that initiative. However, I recently made contact with Mike Crouch from NZ Archives.

Turns out that NZ Archives has been doing a lot with regards the Digital Continuity Action Plan.

Digital Continuity Action Plan

The Digital Continuity Action Plan is described beautifully in a publication that Archives NZ actually published in 2009. You can view it in HTML format here, or a PDF copy can be downloaded here.

The key messages given in the report really made sense to me. They are:

  • There when you need it – digital information will be maintained so that it can be accessed when needed.
  • Authentic and reliable – public-sector digital information should be tamper-proof and free of technological digital rights restrictions
  • Trusted Access – Publicly available information should be findable and usable by all New Zealanders,  and sensitive information will be protected from unauthorised access.
  • Do nothing, lose everything

2010 Conference

In May 2010, a conference was held with experts from Australasia, North America and Europe who presented on a range of aspects in the digital preservation and information continuity fields. There were three streams, and the presentations, and recordings of the sessions can be viewed/listened to here.

2012 Conference

At the end of March, another conference was held. The title was “Digital Preservation by Design”. It looked like there was an excellent line-up of speakers from around the globe.


The idea of digital preservation has been taken seriously by the government in New Zealand. The last of the four key messages (see above) sums it up well: “Do Nothing, Lose Everything.”