Tools TSLAC Uses To Access and Make Available Older Formats

If you’ve ever taken our Managing Electronic Records class or perused our electronic records webinars, you’re aware that a major responsibility for storing records electronically is providing continuous access to those records throughout their life cycle. In our courses, we offer several strategies for providing continuous access, one of which involves holding onto older hardware and software needed to access these older formats.

TSLAC teaches these principles, but we also live by them. TSLAC is, after all, the official archival repository for the state of Texas. With the implementation of the Texas Digital Archive, ARIS (Archives and Information Services) is regularly accessing and making available records stored on obsolete formats. Earlier this month, some members of SLRM took a tour of two ARIS workstations to see what tools they use to access and make available formats that have achieved digital and technical obsolescence.

The first section of the post will focus on electronic forms while the second second will focus on analog formats.

Electronic Formats

A popular tool in the quiver of someone providing access to older electronic formats is the Ultrabay. The Ultrabay includes ports galore and the ability to access several types of media.

The Ultrabay sits in what is called a FRED – a Forensic Recovery Evidence Device. The FRED is used primarily in law enforcement and is primarily used to image hard drives.

Electronic records can come in many shapes and sizes. TSLAC makes sure we have the ability to read the standard 3.5″ and 5.25″ floppy discs and also have the appropriate connecting ribbons so the hardware can be properly installed.

The Electronic Specialists at TSLAC have to be ready for anything – including propriety storage media that never really took off. Here we see an ill-fated “JAZ” Drive.

Sometimes something weird arrives at the archives. Here we have a very large WORM (write once-read many) disc. Accessing the contents will require some work, but based on the contextual metadata (Texas Workforce Commission grants), the contents are probably not archival and met retention long ago. But what if this giant disc included the record copies of meeting minutes?

What about these ancient strips from Governor Mark White’s administration?

Or these scantrons containing antiquated computer code? How important is the information held therein?

TSLAC’s Electronic Records Specialists also use virtualization software to access these older formats, but frankly this is a pictorial post and computer screens just don’t have the aesthetic I’m looking for. One major issue with compiling hardware (e.g. drive readers) to provide access is that you must also hold onto the internal drivers to make that hardware work. You can hold onto the drive, but as your computer updates to the latest version of your operating software, you may lose the internal drivers that make that hardware run. The Software Preservation Network seeks to remedy this problem by creating “solutions that will ensure persistent access to all software and all software-dependent objects.”

Continue to second page for analog formats

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