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Public Records Office to preserve digital documents

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The Public Records Office (PRO) is to reveal at a conference next month how it intends to preserve electronic documents for the future.

As the PRO makes clear, it is necessary to maintain the software and hardware needed to read those documents. This is easier said than done when software viewing applications can become obsolete very quickly, and storage media, such as disks and tapes, are, all too often, unstable.

Unless these are preserved, the PRO warns that future generations may miss out on a significant part of their heritage.

That's why more than a hundred delegates are expected to attend a conference in early April charged with discussing practical experiences in the preservation of digital documents.

At the same time the PRO will outline its digital archive system which will store electronic government records.

Said David Ryan, Head of Archive Services at the Public Record Office: "As the world is becoming more technologically advanced, it is claimed that the average life span of a web page is around 100 days, while the software required to view digital information can become obsolete within five years.

"Digital information cannot be left for 20 years in the hope that it will remain readable for our grandchildren."

Of course, one way to preserve the documents is to print them off and file them away. No? Just a thought. ®

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