Data archaeology

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Data archaeology refers to the art and science of recovering computer data encrypted in now obsolete media or formats.

The term originally appeared in 1993 as part of the Global Oceanographic Data Archaeology and Rescue Project (GODAR). The original impetus for data archaeology came from the need to recover computerized records of climatic conditions stored on old computer tape, which can provide valuable evidence for testing theories of climate change. These approaches allowed the reconstruction of an image of the Arctic that had been captured by the Nimbus 2 satellite on September 23, 1966, in higher resolution than ever seen before from this type of data.

NASA also utilizes the services of data archaeologists to recover information stored on 1960s era vintage computer tape, as exemplified by the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP).

To prevent the need of data archeology, creators and holders of digital documents should take care of digital preservation.

See also


  • O'Donnell, James Joseph. Avatars of the Word: From Papyrus to Cyperspace Harvard University Press, 1998.

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