Public Release: 

From movies to minutia: DVDs eyed for archival uses

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

The U.S. Geological Survey has compiled massive amounts of information about the Earth, and wants to hold on to it indefinitely. The National Archives is the official depository for information about the federal government and wants to protect its digital treasures.

However, before these government agencies and others start replacing their bulky paper files or compiling information on newer technologies like DVDs, they want to be sure that the new storage disks have staying power. Computer scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) are launching an effort to develop specifications for "archival quality" CD and DVD media that agencies could use to ensure the procurement of sufficiently robust media for their long- term archiving needs (i.e., 50 years and longer).

NIST is spearheading the standards effort under the auspices of the Government Information Preservation Working Group, a newly formed group that includes representatives from a variety of agencies. The working group shares information and best practices concerning the use of DVD and related technologies in the federal government. It will identify the needs of the federal community in relation to the durability of storage media and work with industry to develop suitable archival grade specifications.

NIST has developed test and evaluation facilities that the group will use. The test facilities have systems that can rapidly assess disk quality by detecting flaws. Also included are enclosed chambers that use temperature and humidity changes to artificially age the media some 20 years in only six weeks.

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