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Personal Digital Archiving: Organization

This guide will provide information about how to organize and preserve digital files for long term access.

What to Delete

Just like with paper records, not all digital files will need to be preserved in perpetuity. Deleting a digital file you no longer actively use and do not wish to preserve actually helps with organization by removing the clutter. Clean out your digital files like you would your clothes closet, if you have not opened the file in the last year and you do not believe you will want or need the file in the future, delete it.

Folder Structure

When creating folder structure follow folder naming conventions and make sure not to have too many "nested" folders. If you are opening a series of more than four folders to get to a specific file, your folder structure may be too complicated.

File and Folder Names

  • The file/folder name should represent what the content of the file and should be unique to each digital object
  • When using dates in the file name there are two considerations
    • Dates should be in year_month_day format to help prevent confusion when sorting the files
      • Example: August 15, 2017 would be represented as 2017_08_15
    • If you are going to sort the files by date then the date should be the first part of the file name
      • Example: 2017_08_15_JournalEntry.pdf
  • Avoid special characters and blank spaces when naming files/folders
    • Special Characters: !@#$%^&*()?/\-~`.
    • You can use an underscore _ in the place of a space
  • If you are going to sequentially number files be sure to use leading zeros. Computer sorting automatically groups like numbers together. Files named, photo1, photo10, and photo100 would all be grouped together before photo2.
    • Example: photo001.tiff
  • When downloading digital files be sure they are being saved in the correct place in your folder structure and that the file name follows your file naming procedures.

Aiding Your Search

Like Twitter's hashtags, some software allows you to add extra information to your files via tagging or embedding metadata. This extra information helps when performing a search. Take advantage of this ability whenever you can.

Example: Adding metadata to a Microsoft Word Document.

Document Your Organization

In each folder structure add a simple text file that describes the files and folders contained within the structure. Similar to how you would create an inventory list for a box you are putting in storage.