Jun 8, 2015

Data recovery over the years

Muller Media conversions based in the US shares a number of cases where they took up the challenge to recover data at risk of loss through decaying media or obsolescent formats , making acquaintance with some interesting data sets along the way!

A set of slides summarises the case studies, starting at page 8.  The interventions included comprise:

  • In 1992, political rivals of a contender for a presidential nomination were curious about his visit to Moscow in 1969.  An FOIA request turned up some Old State Department tape, which was in an undocumented file format, and required some hacking skills to reveal the content. (Page 8)

  • The National Archives and Records Administration set up an Archival Preservation System in 1992 as a records maintenance system, dealing with government's electronic mail and other data stored in digital formats. (Page 9)

  • In 1994 a law firm in Little Rock, Arkansas needed the recovery of  data related to legal work for a real estate project named "Castle Grande" from the 1980s.  The related records had mysteriously vanished, but were recovered from Wang 8 inch floppies. (Page 10)

  • Presidential appointments calendar and notes from the 1970s used a proprietary database for storage by a Whitehouse mainframe, with tape in danger of decay and unknown data formats.  Similarities in data structure with Vietnam-era military records helped to unravel the data and store them in a new database. (Page 11)

  • Student records from the late 70s were held in a basement of a school on Vydec floppy discs. The school was the subject of a litigation as oil wells on the school property  were suspected of endangering the health of school pupils (later made into a film). (Page 12)

  • With an international angle, tapes and discs with population data from all over the world, are collected and published by the Minnesota Population Centre and IPUMS.org.  The case of staff at the Bangladesh Bureau of statistics illustrates the world-wide need for data rescue.  Daily power cuts were among the challenges faced by staff in keeping legacy tapes stored properly. (Pages 13-14)

  • Dr. Siebert's collection on the Penobscot language included interviews with native speakers and a dictionary in a rare format. (Page 15)


Slides submitted by Chris Muller, Muller Media Conversions. To re use any of these stories please contact Chris Muller chris.muller@mullermedia.com