Preservation Allows Us to Go Back to the Future

camera man with his equipmentPreservation of physical and digital media is highly important for historical purposes. Archived versions of websites or newspapers long gone can give our future counterparts a good working base to sort out our period’s history.

The process is implemented everywhere, from bank paper trails to attendance records in schools. Having a good, unbiased archive prevents unnecessary editorializing that may obscure historical facts deemed unsavory or unfavorable at the time.

The most popular entertainment and information media have their own process of archiving their content, as well as the challenges that go with it.


Look at your local library; chances are they’ve got cabinets of old newspapers and microfiche. Headlines are preserved with all sections to remember important events from every day of the year. Multiple publications are archived for consistency and to record the news in all possible viewpoints.

In the digital age, archived websites contribute to the preservation of headlines, small and large. Online archive machines and offline hard copies of sites maintain the layout and formats of websites. It is in this way that special reports with unique formats are preserved. Social media threads are also preserved to have proof of how people interact with and react to the news.


The National Film Registry of the Library of Congress is perhaps the most famous film preservation institute in America. They have a registry of hundreds of films archived for various reasons. Some are preserved for their historical value; others for their innovation and significance to the larger cultural landscape.

Film preservation is crucial, as the movies capture the prevailing concerns, ways of living, and predominant attitudes in the era in which they were made. Documentaries capture the cultural shades of how history is remembered. Fictional movies are manifestations of the viewpoints and traditions of a country that may not be as well represented elsewhere.

Desk with notebook, pencil and ipod


Music genres and “scenes” are as much political and social indicators as movies and news. Music is democratic and shows the cultural capital and influences that current musicians take for granted. Private and public collectors spend fortunes acquiring old discs to preserve copies and share them to the world.

Archiving prevents misrepresentation of the musicians that make the tunes people love. The names of lesser-known artists who may have serendipitous influence over popular names also shine in these archives. The material surrounding the sound—album art, jackets, packaging—has a wealth of information for the circumstances in which these rhythms and melodies were birthed.

Video Games

The newest of these media, video games may seem frivolous for other people but its importance has long been validated. The Library of Congress deemed video games an important enough medium that it ruled for the preservation of certain titles in addition to other software.

Video game preservation is a delicate process that archivists and scholars are working on now. Bit rot or the degradation of storage media, copyright laws, and consoles linked to online services that may no longer be active pose significant threats to the complete preservation of video games.

Family archives are possible for smaller memories. Like time capsules arranged at school, your family archive can contain pieces that will remind you of what your situation was like at that time. Home videos in CDs or hard drives, printed photographs, diaries, and other memorabilia are good pieces for home archives. Who knows, your preserved artifacts can one day be helpful for historians looking into the lives of Americans.