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8 things you can do right now to preserve your digital files

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Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

Make a list of your essential digital records.

Your “essential records” are the records that protect you and your family’s health, identity, and financial resources. These are the records that would be in your safety deposit box if they were paper, and they are the records you would first save in an emergency. Know what and where your digital essential records are. Tell another family member how to access them in an emergency.

Check your backups

Have you been backing your files up? If so, great! Go check your backups and see that everything is in its place, where you expect it to be. Open a few files and check that they are what you expect them to be and that you can still open them.

Organize your backups

If your backups have started feeling like your junk drawer, it may be is definitely time to organize them. Evolving backup systems may have left you with your digital materials spread out over several backups: hard drives, cloud backup, maybe even a few CDs. If it’s gotten so disorganized that you can’t find what you’re looking for easily, then your backups aren’t working the way they should.

Look for stray files

Try to think of where you might have any files that haven’t yet been backed up. Check your phone, your camera (the memory card and the camera itself), old thumb drives, your work computer.

Add your personal website to the Wayback Machine

The Wayback Machine is the free web archive of the non-profit Internet Archive. First check to see if your site is already in their archive. If it’s not, add it. Just make sure that you don’t have robots.txt or settings that don’t allow crawlers.

Clean your desktop, download folders

Everyone has their favorite place to send “miscellaneous” and temporary files. Files seem to just collect there, and once in, nothing gets deleted (kind of like the Pacific garbage patch). Be brave, clean it out.

Rename your files

If you haven’t already, come up with a file naming scheme and stick to it! Check out this best practices document or this online tutorial to help get you started.

Think of one more thing on your own (and do it)

Now that you’ve been spending so much time with your digital assets, you’re bound to have noticed at least one more thing you can do to better preserve them. This kind of analysis is great. It’s how we develop systems to keep our stuff in order.

NC County of the Week: Henderson County, NC

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This week’s North Carolina County of the Week is Henderson County, North Carolina! henderson

This week  (July 20 – 26) we’ll highlight the people, history, geography, and natural heritage of this county located in the mountains of North Carolina.

We’ll showcase the documentary history and collections of the Government & Heritage Library and our sister agencies in the Department of Cultural Resources and other heritage institutions throughout the state.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter and join in the conversation by using the hashtag #nccotw.  And don’t forget to visit us on Pinterest for our Henderson County board where we’ll showcase a range of historic images.


State Doc Pick of the Week – Cedars in the Pines

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There has been a Lebanese-American community in North Carolina since the 1890s. Over 16,000 Lebanese immigrants have made North Carolina their home.  In 2010 the Khayrallah Program for Lebanese-American Studies was established at North Carolina State University to preserve and publicize the history of the North Carolina Lebanese-American community. The first project for the program was to create a documentary film on this history. That documentary was called Cedars in the Pines and debuted in 2012. Later in 2012 a newsletter of the same name was started.

The newsletter Cedars in the Pines, was created by the Khayrallah Program to highlight more about the Lebanese in North Carolina project. The newsletters feature updates on the project, profiles of North Carolina Lebanese-Americans and exhibits of interest.

This newsletter can be downloaded, printed, saved, and viewed by clicking here.

Ella May Wiggins, Gaston County, NC Folk Singer & Labor Leader and Pete Seeger: paying our cultural heritage forward

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by Kelly Agan, NCpedia Digital Media Librarian

Since we’re featuring Gaston County for this week’s North Carolina County of the Week, I’m dusting off a blog post from winter where I wrote about the role of Gaston County’s Ella May Wiggins in North Carolina labor history and folk music heritage.

Back in January, a viewer wrote in to NCpedia with a question about Wiggins: had any of her work been published. The question was co-incident with the death of Pete Seeger on January 27.  It was a great question that gave me a chance to make some simple but powerful connections between people, history, and preservation.

Photo of Ella May Wiggins from the Gaston Gazette.

Photo of Ella May Wiggins from the Gaston Gazette.

First, Ella May Wiggins. A single mother of seven and a mill worker in Bessemer City, Wiggins was born near Bryson City, NC in 1900. She used her powerful voice to stand up for and to unite mill workers in Gaston County during rocky years from 1927-29.  She used singing to lead striking workers, and she wrote a number of ballads of which her autobiographical “The Mill Mother’s Lament” became well known. Tragically, Ella May Wiggins was shot and killed while on her way to a worker meeting in 1929.  Her songs continued to be used in the labor movements of the 1930s and were later picked up by civil rights activists of the 1960s and the folk musical revival.  Pete Seeger used her song in the 1960s and re-recorded it in 1992 in his album, Pete Seeger: American Industrial Ballads (produced by the Smithsonian’s Folkways Recordings label).

Photo of Pete Seeger, 1955 from the Library of Congress

Photo of Pete Seeger, 1955 from the Library of Congress

Pete Seeger’s connection to Ella May Wiggins and the preservation work of libraries and archives is more than co-incidental.  Like Wiggins, he used music to organize and unite.  He was a standard bearer for the folk music revival, civil and environmental rights movements, and also had an intimate role in the preservation and sharing of our cultural history: he worked for a time at the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress, cataloging and transcribing artifacts of America’s folk music heritage, where Ella May Wiggins had an important place. Along with Alan Lomax and Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger helped preserve — and publish — this important heritage in Hard-hitting Songs for Hard-Hitting People: [American folk songs for the Depression and the labor movement of the 1930s], published in 1967 by Oak Publications.

What I like contemplating is how a digital endeavor like NCpedia can join this unbroken chain of human effort to keep cultural connections alive.  At NCpedia we continually reflect on the breadth of the work of William Powell. Where Seeger spent a lifetime documenting and preserving folk music heritage, William Powell, librarian, archivist, and historian, spent a lifetime uncovering, collecting, and writing about our state’s history and cultural heritage. In fact, the biographical essay on Ella May Wiggins in NCpedia (along with a few thousand more biographies!) comes from Powell’s Dictionary of North Carolina Biography (published by UNC Press).

Photo of William Powell for the North Carolina Collection, UNC-Chapel Hill.

Photo of William Powell for the North Carolina Collection, UNC-Chapel Hill.

Web publishing allows us to add readers to this unbroken chain. When viewers write in with questions that force us to find new information and make new connections, the viewer’s interaction becomes part of the permanent record associated with an entry. And our answers and the connections we add become part of the record as well. The same way Pete Seeger’s connection to Ella May Wiggins, previously absent from the entry, is now part of the NCpedia record. Straightforward and powerful. Like Ella May Wiggins, Pete Seeger, and William Powell.

Visit NCpedia and become part of the chain!

This blog is a service of the State Library of North Carolina, part of the NC Department of Cultural Resources. Blog comments and posts may be subject to Public Records Law and may be disclosed to third parties.