Archiving images is an important way of preserving parts of our history. Until early 2000’s, images were predominantly stored in physical archives, stored in secure buildings. The BBC archive took up 66 miles of stacked shelves, but in 2000 they began storing their media in a digital format. Storing work in this way, virtually eliminates the risk of loss through disasters such as fires, floods and theft, which was common with physical archives which could then never be recovered. It becomes much easier to have multiple copies of a file when stored digitally, which creates a more secure future for the file.
Printed photographs naturally degrade through exposure of light and handling, which even in a controlled environment makes physical archives extremely delicate. Also, depending on the quality of paper the photograph is on, the life length can durability can change significantly.
Going to view a physical archive can be a long experience, finding the correct files and handling them so carefully, and by having these files digitally available it makes them much more widely available for all types of people, to enjoy and share.
But although storing physical archives takes up a large amount of ground space, the environmental effects of using digital forms to store our files can be more detrimental. File Slinger states that if we store our work digitally, but on a CD drive or USB stick, they power off when not needed, but these ‘clouds’ are using enormous amounts of electricity 24 hours a day to keep the servers going. But obviously, it is much easier to loose or damage a small USB drive, and is your own problem if you loose that work. Storing the work on a cloud gives people a sense of security, that our memories are safe.
It is also important to remember that storing photographs without accompanying text or captions, unless they are only for personal use, can be seen in later life with no indication of the event, which can make the photograph meaningless. Even dating, and putting the location on an image can provide all types of important information for an archival photograph.
It can be argued that an archive is never complete. When we photograph, there is always something we miss out, which may be down to an opinion we had on the event which made us photograph certain things, or simply just not capturing a moment. Pictures can also be selected carefully to present a fact, which may not represent the full occasion, which can warp the way we see things.