Materials Inventory

As noted in the In Perpetuum project plan, this week’s activity was to take an inventory of my materials that I want to, shall we say, save. “Preserve” is such a loaded term and doesn’t fully express what I mean. Rather than give a blow-by-blow of this watching-paint-dry exercise, I’ll report some of the highlights, observations, and next steps.

Compulsive, but deductive, organizer that I am, I began by listing the information about the materials to capture. Whoa there, it’s not metadata yet. The result was a more thorough list of my materials (digital and analog) to save, how I’d like to sort the eventual metadata (by Type, Level of Access, and Priority), and other bits of context to capture in the inventory (e.g., dates, type of use, end goal for material, current storage, file type, OS, priority for saving, and unit(s) of measure (total can of worms)).

I was mostly successful in capturing what was outlined. The inventory itself took about 2 hours. Useful items: pen, paper, tape measure, lots of floor space, dust-free area, dust cloth, plastic bag and tape for batteries (tape nodes, save for recycle). I was remiss in not making photos but will do a better documentary job as this progresses. In fairness, I spent several days over the past two months consolidating files on my external drive and computer, so 2 hours is the culmination of a week of work.

Observation 1: In another post, I’ll summarize the amount of storage on all my devices and how much space I’m using. Don’t yawn. The units of measure don’t permit an apple-to-apple comparison between digital and analog when planning for saving or storage, but there is overlap between the two: a 250GB external hard drive in its box also takes up a 10×5 inch space on a shelf.

Observation 2: There is A LOT of redundancy in what’s been saved to date, at least for images. I don’t delete and re-use the image cards from my digital camera, and the images are on a computer, an external hard drive, and Flickr. What to do?

Observation 3: However, there are other files/folders for which I have only one copy. The worst case: At some point I put files from 1987-1999 that were on 3.25 floppies onto a PC and have migrated that folder through at least four computers (Mac and PC). It lives on the external hard drive only.

Observation 4: After the inventory, I was a bit overwhelmed. It’s a royal pain to manage my materials, and I like doing this. What is everyone else doing, and what’s being lost? I made the “fire list” of priorities in case I run out of steam, and go figure, I want to save all the materials on tape and film. I’m less concerned about the digital materials (except for my high school senior paper in Word Perfect). In twenty years, will today’s kids have to worry about their term papers being inaccessible in Google Docs? For the record, I would save: an interview with my great-grandmother on micro-cassette; a folder of “vital” documents; all pictures; all video; mix tapes (audio cassette); home VHS tapes; vinyl; my iTunes library; master file of work notes; email; work documents

Observation 5: I’ve spent a lot of time burning email to discs and exporting it from one machine to another, but it’s a really low priority to save. In the interest of “saving” (my time, trees, energy) should I print that special email from my mom, put it in a folder, and delete the million other mundane messages? Also, saving things that I’ve published is dead last on the list. Sorry open access folks, but right now I’m counting on publishers (open or not) to perpetuate the academic record of my work.

Observation 6: Take out your batteries! Especially the alkaline ones if you haven’t used the device for more than a year. I understand some people (not me) like to lick the white stuff that flakes off corroded batteries. Save them, and you and your materials, a trip to the emergency room, and remove the batteries from devices you don’t use but won’t throw away, ahem, recycle.

This post is way too long, so I’ll put next steps in another segment and will post the spreadsheet with inventory. Scintillating reading.

One thought on “Materials Inventory

  1. Pingback: In Perpetuum Week 2 Report | high-heeled sneakers

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